Wine is appealing to a new younger, hipper crowd

Vince Vitrano, Stephanie Graham

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Wine is appealing to a new younger, hipper crowd

CREATED Aug. 22, 2013 - UPDATED: Aug. 23, 2013

MILWAUKEE - The battle is on for young wine drinkers and Chris Hammond, co-founder of Rock 'n Roll Wines, is on the front lines, organizing events to draw in a 21-29 year old crowd.

"The events lack pretention.  They don't make you feel intimidated by a lot of adjectives or what you should like, or what a magazine says you should like," Hammond explains.

The stakes are high. Vintners are counting on the potential 70 million millennials to keep their $30-billion business growing. 

John Gillespie, President of the Wine Market Council, is seeing more wineries going after the younger generation, integrating social media into their marketing menus. "To them, wine is the new black. It goes with everything and it travels very well. We should take note of the fact that wine drinkers are in very big numbers on Facebook, on Twitter. There are very high numbers of users of Yelp."

There are even fun new apps to help newbies decide what to serve with their wine.  Don't be surprised to see it served in new settings, too, from concerts to sporting events.

"Wine is being consumed on many more casual everyday occasions than ever before," Gillespie says.

Even the labels, with unusual names, are appealing.  Sociology professor David Halle says labels aside, accessibility and lower price points, along with gender neutral appeal, is turning wine into the new party drink of choice amongst younger drinkers. 

Halle says, "Wine is now as beer was amongst young people, a drink that you serve in large quantities where there is an aim at the party to get drunk."  He adds part of that is due to new marketing.  "There is no longer any branding of wine that it's a chic drink that you sip at.  That's gone."

He points out plenty of people are still looking to sample wine and not get inebriated, a point Rock 'n Roll Wine President Chris Hammond reiterates. "I don't think that people come to our events with the intent of getting tipsy. I think they know they will get a nice little buzz, but I think wine is unique in that it breeds this social aspect where everybody becomes friends."

Dr. Halle sees this trend as another sign of aging-and he's not just talking about the wine. 

"This thing has gone on during the history of fashion and the history of food; the younger generation adopting the older generations is inevitable," Halle explains.

The growing popularity of wine among a younger crowd is catching on with celebrities, like Fergie, Madonna, and Brad Pitt, who now have their own labels.  It's another way for them to tap ino their fan base.