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Millennial vs. Gen Z Wine Attitudes

Millennial vs. Gen Z Wine Attitudes

You may think some people take wine too seriously, while others might wish it were taken just a bit more seriously by their peers. Maybe it all depends on when you grew up. We asked two members of the WE team to tell us what they wish their generation had known sooner about wine. Frosé all day or no way, frosé?

Raised in the ‘80s

Wine culture has come a long way since I was coming of age in the ’80s and ’90s. The focus was on tradition. While there’s something to be said about passing down established methods, customs and beliefs, I wish I learned sooner that wine could be more fun.

I always felt wine had too many rules. You must drink white wine with white fish and red wine with red meat. You had to drink certain wines out of specific glasses. You only paired Italian wine with Italian food and French wine with French food. Wine descriptions for a variety had to be the same. And don’t even think about putting ice cubes in your wine. The list of rules can go on forever.

I wish I knew I could pair wine with music, cannabis, chips, popcorn, wings, Chinese food and Big Macs. Canned wine would have changed my summers for the better. I wish I knew I could frosè all day, enjoy sparkling wine in my cocktails, make wine ice cubes, incorporate liqueurs in bubbles and make sangria in my French press.

When I was growing up, wine was for the elite and sophisticated, the folks who knew how to drink it. Today, this next generation is making wine more accessible, more about bringing people together and sparking joy. Wine is a business and the livelihood of millions, and its traditions should be respected. But just like with wine, balance is key. –Jacy Topps Assistant Editor, Print

Recently Achieved Legal-Drinking Status

Wine culture today has strayed far away from its roots. People my age tend to be averse to the customs and rules around wine in exchange for innovation taken to extremes, and it’s affecting our ability to truly appreciate what wine can—nay, should—be.

It feels like I hardly have the chance to experience wine unless I actively seek it out. Instead, wine is masked by other ingredients in an over-the-top cocktail or shoved in a can. Or (if I’m lucky) a bottle is ordered for the table—not for its exceptional quality or expression of a particular region, mind you, but for the sake of Instagramming its pretty label and establishing some sort of #class.

These things aren’t inherently bad or wrong. But by passively consuming wine, we’re simply missing out. Although the rules of wine are not gospel, they are necessary to experience the rich story that every glass has to offer. A wine’s region, vintage and flavor profile are supporting characters to its primary role: to facilitate connection and joy. Instead of neglecting these elements, I wish my generation curated more thoughtful experiences around them. It can be as simple as serving wine at its ideal temperature or with an intentionally paired dish. These customs are there to enhance—enhance the aromas, the flavors, the sense of time and place. Why shy away?

For a generation of progressive self-drivers and imaginative changemakers currently coming of wine-drinking age, maybe this take isn’t exactly palatable. But if we start to lean into tradition as a way to optimize our drinking experiences, we can begin to see how wine offers the very opportunities for innovation and self-expression that we’re looking for. –Samantha Sette Digital Web Producer

This article originally appeared in the May 2023 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!

Published on May 19, 2023

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