When asked the last time he had mistaken Burgundy for Bordeaux, Harry Waugh famously replied, “not since lunch.” Frequent drinkers today aged 26 – 34 have more confidence than Waugh since 78% of them think they can tell the difference between merlot and cabernet sauvignon, even more similar than Burgundy and Bordeaux! (Hmm, not the only place we Americans have a lot of confidence…)
That’s one of the many interesting findings I learned at the Wine Market Council’s presentation in New York City on Tuesday that included survey and market data. To set the backdrop, Nielsen’s Danny Brager presented data that showed wine and spirits are taking market share away from beer. That’s the good news. But, thanks to the economic headwinds, prices are falling modestly. And that may also be good news if you’re a consumer. Indeed, 73% of consumers surveyed say they are finding good wines available at lower prices. Citing data from the Beverage Information group, John Gillespie of Wine market Council said that the latest estimate for the size of the wine market is 291 million cases, up from 278 million cases the year prior. That’s up from 207 million cases ten years prior and is the eighteenth consecutive year of growth in the US wine market.
John Gillespie broke down some of the demographics of wine drinkers. The most important point is that 21% of those surveyed drink wine once a week, which makes them “core” drinkers. These core drinkers, in turn, consume 91% of the wine in America. So they’re the ones driving the bus. After a focus on baby boomers last year, John focused this year on the millennials, the cohort that is aged 18-34 (well, 21-34 for wine purposes). He found that the generation is large enough to split and that the older subgroup of 26-34 year olds drinks wine with more frequency, in greater quantity and are more experimental than their younger peers and the older bracket, Generation X. These older millennials are really into wine and are also online a lot, visiting wine websites, tweeting and doing status updates on Facebook more than any other age group.
Also worth noting was that across all generations, “high end” purchasers (wine over $20) a month, are very engaged online. Oh, and they’re even more confident about telling cab from merlot, clocking in at 83%. Harry Waugh would be even more impressed.