Generation Wine

07 December, 2017

Millennials are the educated professionals – aka the new money – and, with their disposable income, they are eating out and travelling and drinking to their hearts’ content. Napa Valley wineries are recognising the shift, and even helping to shape the tastes of the new wine customers in their 20s and 30s.

Liana Estates Winery is owned by sisters Lisa and Ariana Peju, millennial daughters of Tony and Herta Peju who established the respected Peju Province winery. These new wine leaders are keen to know what their peers want. “Millennials don’t want to drink what their parents drink. They want to drink what their friends are drinking. They also want to be able to discover something new on their own,” says Lisa.

And part of that discovery means making available blends and flavours consumers may not find at other places. Liana Estates is the only winery in the region selling an orange Muscat boasting dried apricot and hibiscus notes.

Liana offers not one, but two wine clubs. The Bubbles Club provides regular shipments of Liana sparkling wines, and the Cultivator’s Club delivers members limited-edition wines and access to events such as bocce with the winemaker and a tour of the farmers’ market with the winery chef.

Instead of offering merely a stand-up bar where visitors sip then sprint to the next winery, the sisters designed plenty of spaces for picnicking and hanging out. A spate of Liana Estates adventures include wine and cupcake pairing, yoga sessions under the trees, curated sunset picnics, and more. Its gigantic living succulent mural is the stuff Instagram dreams are made of.

The sisters have hired hospitality experts from the Ritz-Carlton hotels to ensure their guests feel welcomed and special. On board is a full-time digital media manager responsible for updating Instagram and Facebook several times a day. And on their 40ha property, which has a restored barn and a new tasting room that sells hoodies and aerodynamic bicycle jerseys, guests sip a rosé poured from a screwcap bottle.

This generation, say separate millennial surveys conducted by UC Davis and Chase credit card services, crave fine wine, thirst for adventure, and compete to be number one in the “doing something different” category. “The wine industry has been energised by the millennials,” says Robert Smiley, professor at UC Davis Graduate School of Management.

Wineries that are taking millennials seriously are easing them into the world of reds, whites and everything in between. Savvy vendors are selling good starter wines at accessible US$20-plus price points. Their hope? Hook them early so they return for the expensive stuff as their palates grow up.

Which wineries are the millennials flocking to in Napa Valley? Anywhere they can find a unique opportunity and post bragging rights.

Hill points out: “Millennials enjoy casual tasting environments that aren’t pretentious or stuffy. They enjoy listening to music at the venue, and appreciate the story about the brand versus technical information about the vineyards or wine.”

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