Tech-savvy wineries poised to welcome millennial wine drinkers

One of the most influential people in the wine industry, Joe Roberts, contends that winemakers and industry professionals should be focusing more of their efforts on millennials. Baby boomers are often targeted by marketing companies as a mature generation with money to spend. At a recent industry event hosted by Diam Corks and G3 Enterprises, Joe Roberts submitted to the audience of, ironically, well over 40 year-old winemakers and industry professionals that it is the millennial generation marketers should be shifting their focus to.

Who is Roberts to make such a brash statement? A man who’s consistently received top wine blog honors since 2010 and one of the top fifteen entries in IntoWine.com’s list of 100 Most Influential People in the U.S. Wine Industry for 2013. His pedigree, by his own admittance, cannot even touch that of our emcee for the day—the absolutely charming master sommelier Evan Goldstein—and yet he’s so dialed into the 21-36 year-old crowd that you’d think he was one.

Roberts shared some hard facts based on easily-accessed statistics. Headlines continue to show that, by and large, the savings rate of the baby boomer generation has not been on par with the cost of living in retirement so, he went on to say, when they’re deciding between food on the table and a bottle of wine to drink, they’re probably going to opt for the food.

As a financial geek, I’ve read a lot of those stories and time will tell if the doom and gloom comes to pass but he certainly piqued the interest of everyone in the room with his theories. More interesting, however, was the social media angle of advertising to the tech-savvy generation. Their engagement level doesn’t seem to be as personal as a couple generations before them…or is it?

He shared a story about a wine producer in the California area who is linked in to the point that if someone’s sneeze in Tokyo even resembled the name of his vineyard, he’d know about it. Every winery should aspire to this man’s level of media involvement.

So, two young couples traveling around California doing some wine tasting took a photo of them having dinner at a fabulous, upscale restaurant on their wine weekend vacation, mentioned the wine by name and moments later the winemaker sent them a message that they’re less than 10 miles from his winery and he’d love to preside over their tasting personally if they stopped by the next day.

At this point in the story, one of those over-40 winemakers interjected “Didn’t they think that was creepy?” illustrating the whole point to Roberts’ story. No, the millennial generation loves this kind of personalization. It’s how they interact. They probably tweeted all their friends about how cool this winemaker was to extend such an exclusive invitation, further expanding on the marketing benefits of Mr. Winemaker’s brief interruption into their evening.

The next day the foursome showed up, tasted wine, bought wine (the best part) and had this special story to share with their entire social circle.

According to Bob Paulinski, master of wine and senior vice president for BevMo, wine has a degree of newness and brand loyalty that’s caused its popularity to soar with a breadth of generations. To focus too heavily on one at the cost of another could prove to be a fatal marketing decision.

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