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What Gen Z Actually Thinks About Wine, According to Gen Z 

What Gen Z Actually Thinks About Wine, According to Gen Z 

If we’re to believe the headlines, Gen Z—a.k.a. those born between 1996 and 2012—spells doom for the wine industry. They’re health-conscious, sober-curious and not that interested in spending money on alcohol, according to the latest “State of the U.S. Wine Industry” report. The San Francisco Chronicle says that Gen Z-ers think of wine as 2024’s cigarette, while Fast Company says young drinkers are opting for hard seltzers, low-abv beverages, marijuana and non-alcoholic products over wine. The future sounds grim. 

But Gen Z industry professionals aren’t wholesale shunning wine; they just feel misunderstood. “Ask people who are pessimistic about Gen Z what they were doing when they were our age,” says Cokie Ponikvar, the 22-year-old wine vlogger behind the social media account @CokiesWorldofWine. “I bet they weren’t drinking Burgundy.” 

So what are the new guard of drinkers excited about? Below, we unpack the trends defining Gen Z wine culture—and suggest bottles indicative of them. 

Embracing—Not Just Acknowledging—Sustainable Practices 

This generation is watching the devastating effects of climate change unfold in real time, so it’s understandable that sustainability is important to 75% of them. They care more about environmental practices than brand names.  

“In our wine club, climate conversation has been a huge topic, from seminars we’re hosting to questions we’re getting from our students,” says Quinn Bader, an MBA candidate at UCLA Anderson School of Management and the president of the school’s wine club. 

“My friends focus on what goes into the product, whether it’s the farming, packaging or sustainability measures,” explains Rachel Bordes, assistant winemaker at Ram’s Gate Winery in Sonoma. “These are values we don’t mind paying for.” 

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But sustainability needs to be more than a slogan. “My generation isn’t just impressed with sustainability—we expect it,” says Jess Druey, founder of the online wine shop Whiny Baby. “Whenever we see companies unveil socially responsible taglines as this big ‘tada’—we think, okay, do you want a reward for doing what’s right?” 

Plus, they seem to have a sixth sense for greenwashing. “I’m cautious of when brands expect Gen Z to love them because they donate 10% of their sales—it seems forced,” says Sophia Miller, a Gen Z digital assistant account manager at wine communications firm Colangelo & Partners. “I’d far rather see brands focus on people- and land-driven stories. I think that will help Gen Z understand why winemaking is such a cool thing.”

Wine Enthusiast Recommends: 

California Chardonnay appeals to a broad swath of people, but this sunny bottling centers regenerative farming practices.

Exploring New Regions 

Carlos Rones, a former sommelier who currently works at Kirkcrest Imports, says that his Gen Z friends are all inquisitive and excited to try new things, wine included.

“They’re adventurous,” Rones says. “This should be exciting to our industry.” He’s seeing growth in interest in international regions—Portugal, Spain and New Zealand especially. Gen Z came of age in an economically tight time, Rones notes, and while a plane ticket might not be accessible, a bottle of wine from a dream destination might be. 

In UCLA’s wine club, Bader notices that smaller producers and bottles from non-traditional locales get a lot of attention. “There’s a huge interest in trying wines from Scandinavia to China to Japan,” he says. “I think a spell has been broken with our generation. We no longer believe good wine can only come from France, Spain, Italy and Northern California. Shared knowledge about winemaking techniques and shifting climates are giving us the opportunity to try amazing wines from all over the world.” 

Wine Enthusiast recommends:

Gen Z are avid learners and keen to explore new-to-them regions, like the rocky, volcanic outcrops of the Azores in Portugal.

Another lesser-known region poised to attract Gen Z? The wind-swept shores of Basque country.

Welcoming New Styles 

Gen Z’s hunger for new experiences also extends to styles of wine. Among them? Orange wines, co-ferments and chilled bottles. Emma Bertrand, creative director of France’s Gerard Bertrand and the fourth generation of her family to run the winery, is running with this trend. She recently introduced a chilled red and an unfiltered white to the brand’s portfolio. Both took off.  

At the UCLA wine club, Bader has also seen an uptick in chilled reds, specifically Central Coast Pinot Noirs that thrive in cooler temperatures. 

Wine Enthusiast recommends:

In the hills creeping up Abruzzo in Italy, winemaker Cristiana Tiberio makes a deep, historic style of chilled red.

Tiberio 2019 Montepulciano (Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo)

This richly hued pink wine starts off with a nose of freshly pressed cherries and blackberries—stems and all. While the fruit is intense and concentrated, there are earthy base notes of herbs and bramble that tie it all together. It’s full, yet fresh on the palate, showing amazing purity to the berry-fruit flavors. Slicks of crushed stone and herbs keep this lifted and energized. It’s an excellent offering from an estate winery located in the Pescara province of Abruzzo. Drink now–2021. 92 points. — Alexander Peartree


Why settle for untraditional food pairings? This Rhone-style co-ferment pairs well with Korean barbecue.

Drinking Digitally 

For a generation that grew up chronically online, connecting on social platforms is crucial. “I had Instagram when I was twelve,” Miller says.  

This is especially true when it comes to discovering new wines. Erica Duecy, the cofounder of the Business of Drinks podcast, dedicated an entire season of her show to better understanding Gen Z and young millennial drinkers. She learned that more than 40% of millennial and Gen Z consumers rely on recommendations from friends and family to help them find and buy wine, followed by social media (30%) then wine publications (13%) and wine reviews and ratings from experts (between 11 and 18%). But meeting Gen Z where they are online isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.  

“I’ve seen so many brands have difficulties using social media platforms in ways that add value,” Miller says. Googling what “cheugy” means or advertising that your red blend has rizz won’t draw in new drinkers, either—the messaging needs to be authentic. “You can’t force it,” she adds. 

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Part of becoming successful on social platforms is an authentic understanding of your audience. Ponikvar started @CokiesWorldofWine in 2021 while she was working towards her WSET diploma and films videos and fields questions many wine nerds would be embarrassed to ask. They range from basic queries like, “Why does red wine make my mouth dry?” and “What does an oaky wine taste like?” to more sophisticated ones, like “What makes the steep hills of Cornas so special?” In the last three years, Ponikvar has amassed almost 300,000 followers. They’re almost entirely Gen Zs and millennials; half are between 25 and 34 years old and 90% of the people who actively engage with her account are under 44. 

Wine Enthusiast recommends: 

Winemaker Joe Wagner has raised awareness for this brand on TikTok, where among other things, he shares ASMR-style videos that capture his bottles’ wax-dipped tops.

Wine as a Connector 

Gen Z’s drinking habits were formed in unprecedented conditions, and this has affected the way they view wine culture. The oldest members of the generation turned 21 mid-pandemic. While previous generations ushered in the milestone with hard partying (and hangovers), many Gen Z-ers came of age in an era of social distancing. “We lost so many cross-generational interactions and other experiences that shape the way people learn how to drink,” Miller says. “Things paused and there’s now a large lag to catch up.”  

At present, many Gen Z-ers drink less, but more consciously. They’re curious about how wine can bring people closer together. “I find that in our wine club nights, people are focused less on learning about wine to be an amateur sommelier or impress our bosses,” Bader says. “It’s about wine as a vessel for unique cultural experiences. I don’t think that our generation is losing interest in wine, I just think we’re more focused on social and cultural connections.” 

Wine Enthusiast recommends: 

No need to wait for a big milestone to pop bubbly. After coming of age in a global crisis, Gen Z considers a casual hangout with friends enough of a celebration.

Small producers with a keen sense of storytelling, like Massican in California, are attracting younger drinkers.

Massican 2022 Annia White (California)

A unique blend of 41% Ribolla Gialla, 33% Tocai Friulano and 26% Chardonnay, this white has a beautiful springtime feel. Aromas and flavors suggest chamomile and jasmine blossom, citrus zest, wet stone, dewy grass warming underneath the rising sun, bee pollen and just-ripe yellow peach and peach fuzz. Light- to medium-bodied, the wine offers a slight fizz on the palate, giving it extra energy and verve from start to finish. 90 points. — Stacy Briscoe


Embracing Pacing 

Drinking is down across all demographics, with volume sales for wine declining in the U.S. for the third year in a row. Over the last two years, the World Health Organization has been on a mission to curb alcohol consumption, arguing that no amount of alcohol is safe. This is also affecting how Gen Z approaches wine. 
Bertrand is reaching her peers by advertising her family’s wines as a low-abv cocktail ingredient. It’s an unconventional approach in many conventional wine circles. “Cocktails remain popular,” she says. “Why not use rosé, red, sparkling and orange wines to offer lighter alternatives to traditional cocktails?” 

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In October, the Business of Drinks podcast commissioned a survey, in partnership with strategy consultancy Research & Marketing Strategies, to better understand how consumption habits. It found that 64% of respondents are moderating their alcohol intake. That figure is even higher for younger audiences: 70% for millennials and 75% for Gen Z. The results found millennials still choose wine as their top choice to bring to a dinner party, but Gen Z-ers choose soda. At a house party? Both generations show up with hard seltzer and beer. 

“Younger drinkers want products that fit into their lifestyles, whether that’s going to the beach or a house party,” Deucy says. It sounds like a simple conclusion, but it’s one that reflects the reality that as lifestyles change, how wine intersects with it will evolve, too. 

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