5 Tips for Selling Wine to Millennials

They're drinking a lot of wine, maybe more than anyone else. Here's how to tap into the market.
Millennials love wine. Use these tips to market to — and profit from — this growing customer base. (Photo: Liza Behles and Courtney Bowditch)

Even the youngest millennials are now of drinking age. What are they drinking? Wine.

In 2015, they drank more wine than Baby Boomers. And they make up 36 percent of the U.S. wine-drinking population according to the Wine Market Council.

From wineries to restaurants to neighborhood wine shops, millennials are actively seeking out new and interesting wine experiences. They’re curious about specific wines, winemakers, regions and varietals — and sometimes they’re looking for a little bit of guidance.

No need to change everything to attract their attention, but by making a few tweaks, wine shops and other sellers can easily tap into this large group of customers, who are already consuming more wine than they did two years ago.

Tell the story

Millennials value stories. They want to know about the winemaker, the winery, the history of the people and places — or at least have the option to know those details.

“Have somebody investigate, like, go to wine country, meet some of these producers, take pictures, make a blog entry, make a video, just do things that share with your clientele what’s happening, to connect them,” said Alison Crowe, the blogger behind Girl and the Grape and winemaker for Garnet Vineyards and Picket Fence Vineyards. “People want a connection, and the great thing about wine is guess what, it comes from the earth, it’s one of the most natural, unprocessed food products that you can buy, and so there are tons of stories waiting to be explored.”

Offer ample information
Beyond the stories, access to information is important for these shoppers. Remember, they’ve had the internet and smartphones for nearly all their adult lives. And they’re fairly new wine drinkers, so some are still trying to figure out what they like.

Liza Behles, a millennial wine drinker and co-founder of Delicate Estates, which makes cheeky, greeting card-style wine labels, said she appreciates when people at wine or liquor stores go the trouble to give her information about a wine’s rating and how it tastes. “It’s sort of like an analogue internet…it helps me choose, and then I don’t feel like I’m playing wine roulette.”

Behles said she also likes to see staff recommendations. Her business partner, Delicate Estates co-founder Courtney Bowditch, said she finds these recommendations almost as helpful as Wine Spectator ratings.

Connect, authentically, online

Millennials (and so many others) are on the internet all the time. They’re browsing, researching and shopping. Make sure your website is eye-catching and up to date and includes great stories and specifics about featured wines (such as tasting notes, wine scores, sourcing and any other interesting details) to help build that connection with this audience.

Social media can help build those connections as well, so give it the attention it deserves. According to Wine Market Council, 34 percent of consumers chat about wine on Facebook, and 19 percent talk about it on Twitter and YouTube.

Don’t forget newer channels, especially Instagram. According to Social Media Today, millennial women are less likely to use Snapchat and Twitter and more likely to use Instagram. Leverage Instagram to tell visual stories — show customers enjoying a staff recommendation or vintners at the winery from which a featured wine hails, for instance.

Let your social media accounts come to life — it should feel like users are interacting with a real person (because they are). Creativity and authenticity go a long way with the millennial crowd.

Adding your voice to the online conversation about wine can help bring people in the door and establish your business as an authority on the subject.

Include regions and varietals that interest them

In addition to old standbys like Napa Valley, France, mainland Italy and Spain, millennials are embracing new-to-them wine-producing places.

Crowe, the blogger and winemaker, said, “What I really love is that the millennial generation is not just looking in Napa Valley, they’re looking at, you know, Sardinia, they’re looking at Sicily, they’re looking at the strange little winemaking regions like southern Patagonia in Argentina.”

Consider bulking up inventory from less conventional locales, and perhaps designate a section to them. Selections from Greece, Oregon, New York, Portugal, Washington, Austria and South Africa are a good place to start; Wine Market Council’s research indicates that wines from these locations are millennial darlings.

Host tastings

Help make the wine buying process a little bit easier, and secure some more sales, by hosting tastings. Wine tastings allow customers to explore and discover new favorites without having to drop a ton of money on something they may not like.

“I’ve never really been to a wine tasting where I haven’t walked out with some sort of wine, assuming it’s not really expensive,” Bowditch said.

Tastings also turn wine buying into something else millennials crave: an experience.

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