Winemakers are catering to a younger market.
Picture: Pexels
Winemakers are catering to a younger market. Picture: Pexels

How wine producers are keeping up with the millennials

By Megan Baadjies Time of article published May 25, 2018

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It’s hard to keep up with millennials and their trends. One minute they’re into black food, the next they’re all sipping on blue wine.

Whether it’s clothes, food and even technology, it’s vital that the respective producers have their finger on the pulse, and most importantly, that their product captures the attention of the ever-changing millennial.

The constant change in trends and tastes even has winemakers looking at ways to keep up with the craze, and as they cater to a much younger market with a sophisticated palate.

Winemaker at Zonnebloem wines, Bonny van Niekerk Picture: Supplied

Red winemaker at Zonnebloem wines, Bonny van Niekerk, says as the face of the premium wine drinker becomes younger, wine producers have to stay abreast of what’s on the rise around the world.

“Young people are not afraid to pay for quality,” Van Niekerk says.

“Millennials have disposable income, and they like fine dining, nice clothes, nice cars so they will spend money on premium wine. I think the challenge is just to get them on your brand,” she adds.

Van Niekerk says their challenge is that young adults aren’t necessarily loyal to a specific brand.

“There is a huge difference between your older loyal supporters, who has been drinking a brand for a long time, and the younger market,” she says.

“You have to fight for their loyalty all the time because if something is better, they will just move on.

“(Millennials) will go with whatever is trendy at the moment, whatever brand is trendy, whatever is trending on social media, and they will go out and try it,” she says.

Van Niekerk says the wine culture in the country is on the increase thanks to the younger wine drinker.

“Now young people are drinking wine, even in the clubs. There’s a big wine culture in South Africa, not just in the Cape. The younger generation are drinking more wines, and they are drinking quality wines,” she says.

Van Niekerk says this change in the industry forces wine producers to stay on top of trends.

“It forces us to constantly be aware of what the trends are in the world,” she says.

“At first, everyone used to drink chardonnay, then it was sauvignon blanc, then chenin blanc, and now everyone is drinking pinot grigio.

“When you’re at an event, people aren’t afraid to ask (for a product) if they don’t see a certain product at a wine show or on a shelf.

“It forces people like myself to stay abreast of what’s out there, and see what others are doing." 

“It just forces us to challenge ourselves to produce better and better every year.”

Blogger Elvina Snell- Fortuin Picture: Supplied

Cape Town based wine blogger, Elvina Snell-Fortuin says with the growing wine culture, millennials are more open to consuming different wines.

“Millennials are becoming comfortable consuming wines, and with so many varietals to choose from, they get to explore and find what fits their budget and palate,” says Snell-Fortuin.

Snhe adds while millennials don’t mind paying for premium wines, for some, it’s a status symbol.

“We have some of the best premium wines, and if you can afford it, you should definitely invest,” she says.

While many may know wine and their brand of choice very well, Snell-Fortuin says some millennials still “buy with their eyes instead of their palate” and go according to what’s trending in social circles.

When asked if wine producers are doing enough to cater to the millennials’ ever changing palate, she says, “I think they are”.

“Grapes are not commodities that we can change as we please, so within their limitations, (wine producers) are definitely doing a lot. 

"More could be done from a marketing point in encouraging consumers to try more South African wines without all the frills.” 

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