REX HILL
 
June 27, 2012 | REX HILL

Wine Marketing to Millennials: Who gives a f*$%?

He Said...
- Mike Willison

There's been a maelstrom of articles, blogs, and random blatherings bandied about lately regarding how, exactly, to market wines to Millennials. Apparently, this group of people represents the Most Important Demographic Ever, especially if you ask them, and we all need to unlock their mysteries before it's too late. The general consensus is that young wine drinkers aren't going to react to the same old, stodgy, buttoned up images of wine drinkers in country clubs sipping away at Montrachet after a ripping good game of squash with the same enthusiasm as generations that preceded them, so we should figure out how to be hep cats and get down with their lingo and colloquialisms. As such, we will all begin making wine with labels like this, or this and be wildly successful. Sadly, I believe that we are all missing the point.

Consumers make connections to brands, styles and varieties of wine based on any number of diverse criteria, and not all Millennials, Gen X-ers, or Baby Boomers adhere to any cohesive set of strictures except one: authenticity of experience. Sure, any one person from any generation may like shiny things that cost a lot, or weird stuff that they pioneered and are now jaded over because Brand X sold out to The Man, or read about Brand X in the Major Wine Publication Magazine, but you cannot beat the Real McCoy. Seeing a picture of the Grand Canyon isn't the same as flying over, or walking on the edge of the Grand Canyon. So, make good wine, get it in people’s glasses by pounding the pavement, and have a good story about where it came from, the people who made it, or the magical company culture. Make the experience the thing, and make it an authentic extension of the winery as a whole, and people will respond. Otherwise, your target market will eventually outgrow your pinpoint marketing strategy like you outgrew your shoulder-padded oversized blazer and love for NKOTB.

 

She Said...
- Carrie Kalscheuer

Who outgrew NKOTB? In all seriousness, you absolutely have a point. I think, however, that what these articles are trying to get at (although possibly missing the "how to get there") is that we have a slew of newcomers to the sport of wine drinking each year, and that if we position ourselves as an out of their reach, too-cool-for-school industry, we will eventually become extinct. Now, we know that isn't true, because these kids will eventually grow up, mature, evolve – just like you say. They'll learn how to drink black coffee without making a face, will develop a taste for things like sweetbreads, and will hopefully learn the difference between a Cabernet and a Pinot Noir. But simply saying, "we’ll get 'em someday" isn’t going to increase business during a depressed market.

Authenticity is always the best approach to anything, sure. But we’re still missing that link – that thing that makes our industry approachable to young potential wine drinkers while maintaining its integrity. And it can't be about just making your wine approachable, but further, it's getting them to want to approach your wine. That ingress is crucial when you're attempting to deliver the 'story' of your wine and winery. Without an IN, we're twiddling our thumbs and waiting for them to outgrow this generation's version of shoulder pads and NKOTB.

Time Posted: Jun 27, 2012 at 9:57 AM
REX HILL
 
June 22, 2012 | REX HILL

Yeah! More posts about the Natural Wine Movement

He Said...
- Mike Willison

"He does it with a better grace, but I do it more natural"

Proponents of the so-called Natural Wine Movement might object to the sentiment that Shakespeare tossed around, taking umbrage with the words, "better", "grace" and, likely, "he." Natural wine supporters argue that there is basically a right and a wrong way to make wine, although the line that separates the two is often as gray and akimbo as the Maginot. The general gist is to limit human and chemical intervention during the winemaking process to almost nothing in an effort to produce wines that showcase not only true varietal character, but also allow the expression of the vineyard site to be exposed. The principle issues are usually about allowing native yeast fermentation rather than inoculating with cultivated yeast strains and using no added sulfites to artificially preserve the wine and prevent microbiological beasties from causing the stuff to get real weird, real fast. There are, of course, other factors: using pigeage (your feet and legs, etc.) to punch down ferments rather more modern methods, small fermentation vats and aging vessels, organic, biodynamic or "do-nothing" farming as advocated by the late Masanobu Fukuoka, a Japanese farmer-philosopher, and, maybe most importantly, not really doing it for the money.

It should be said, of course, that none of this is really written down, specifically agreed to, or even 100% adhered to by a collective or any governing body. So there are fudge-able allowances for a vintage that needs a pinch of sulfur here or a splash of something-something there. I should also say that I, by and large, agree with this ideal. I love the idea of hands-off winemaking and less crud being put in my body because a winemaker had to sit around all year waiting for harvest so that she could fiddle with everything for the sake of fiddling when harvest comes around. I mean, that’s what all of this stuff in this winery is for, right? Where I have problems is with the attitude of most of the people yelling the loudest, drawing needless lines in the sand, and ascribing demi-god like status to but a lone few untouchable icons of the epoch. The most seriously ridiculous implication of the natural wine movement is that it cannot, or should not be, done by medium or large wineries (Sinskey gets chastised for even trying). What better way to have the natural wine movement actually make a difference (to the land, to the people, to the industry) than for it to be introduced to a wider audience?

Making wine can be done better, and more gracefully than many of the giant, mega-wineries currently do. I long for the day when "organic" isn't a buzz word, but is rather the standard for all industry. For some, it's a matter of old habits dying hard; there are just too many people doing what they’ve done for years that aren't about to change in positions of power and influence. I dare Bronco to go natural, organic, or even some kind of sustainable. At least they aren't dogmatic and precious about it, though. Sheesh.

 

She Said...
- Carrie Kalscheuer

I, too, have been reading about all of these tiny, French producers who have been telling everyone who will listen that they make better wine because they do it 'naturally.' But as you point out, what does naturally mean?? Without any parameters, it seems like yet another marketing ploy. For example, native yeast strains are used quite often, yet how native are they really when we propagate that same species by plowing pomace back into our fields? Is that considered toying with nature?

Can wineries afford to thumb their noses at modern technology and actually make wine from just the set of circumstances that nature gives them in any particular year? I say no way. The American wine drinker demands clean, fruity, (and sadly in many cases sugar-y) wines. French wines are misunderstood by many palates, and in fact elicited an emphatic, "EW," from a winemaker friend just last week. I think you nailed it with your comment, "…not really in it for the money." Sure, it sounds romantic and could work in France, but that poop isn’t going to fly here.

Hey, I'm all for making wine in the most natural way possible – after all, this is a food product we are talking about. But it should just be DONE, not preached.

Time Posted: Jun 22, 2012 at 10:01 AM