Last week I discovered that I'm from a different generation than my three siblings because we were born on different sides of the 1965 cut-off for when the Baby Boom ended and Generation X began. But neither they, as Boomers, nor I, as a GenXer, can claim the title of the generation most likely to drink wine. This honor goes to the Millennials — those upstarts born in or after 1977 — because Wine Market Council statistics show that in their generation, "core" wine drinkers consuming a glass somewhere between daily and weekly outnumber "marginal" wine drinkers consuming one or two glasses a month. And since the core segment of the wine-consuming public has grown 60 percent since 2000 — compared to flat growth in the marginal category and a 21 percent loss among beer and spirits drinkers, it's Millennials who are leading the Wineaux brigade.
With all the depressing stats out there these days, we were heartened to see such uplifting ones and felt inspired to look at — and drink to — some other trends in the wine industry.
Organic wines. A recent survey of industry professionals conducted by the Wine Opinions research group found that any indication of "green" practices in a wine's production was very likely to increase the chances of that wine's sale. Such practices might include growing grapes organically or using organic winemaking methods. Both are required if you want the words "organic wine" on your label, but in terms of quality, organic winemaking is a risky path. We tried the 2007 "Our Daily Red" California Red Wine ($7.99), certified organic and made by the Nevada County Wine Guild and felt that it bolstered the argument for wines made with sulfur dioxide. The aroma was all over the place — plum, leather, mint, menthol, and eucalyptus — while the taste was subdued and light. Passable for a picnic, but only if you really need the eco-cred.
New packaging. The survey also showed that boxed-wine containers like the classic bag-in-a-box and newer Tetra Pak style are likely to see a sales uptick. We can't help but wonder if the cute Tetra Pak containers don't strike a chord of nostalgia in Millennials weaned on juice boxes. To me the 250ML Tetra Pak of Glen Ellen's California Chardonnay ($5.99 for a four-pack) was a delightful surprise: peachy with a refreshing lack of artificial oak in the aroma; light, lemony, and nicely balanced; and ending with a fruit-filled flourish.
Regions to watch. No huge surprise that gains among countries importing value wines to the US are projected to be highest among Spanish, Chilean, and Argentinean reds, with growth expected among the Carmenere, Tempranillo, Grenache, and Malbec varietals. Our Token Winemaker couldn't rave enough about the (oops) Carmenere Merlot blend from Chile's Valle Central ($11), finding its bouquet filled with everything from cherries to chocolate brownies and its taste and finish well-structured and pleasing.