NextGen Wine Competition: How Do Millennial Wine Drinkers Compare to Other Generations?

Do millennial wine drinkers prefer something different from imbibers over the age of 35? We're about to find out, when the NextGen Wine Competition takes place on June 14 and 15 in Santa Rosa, California.

All judges are between the ages of 21 and 35, and will include chefs, winemakers, sommeliers, wine educators, and bloggers. Here is the full list of judges.

Although this strikes me as an exercise that could be easily addressed in standard market research, it still should be fun to watch from the sidelines. I imagine the larger wine and spirits companies will be excited to find out which vino appeals most to the tastebuds of younger drinkers, at least those of legal age.

In addition to a competition open to all winemakers, a second competition for Whippersnapper Winemakers is also taking place: The Millennial Winemaker Challenge is open to wines whose final product comes from a millennial winemaker, age 35 or younger.

Already, the competition is generating some consternation among more seasoned wine experts. For example, Steve Heimoff (we both contribute to Wine Enthusiast) posted a blog entry called This One's Too Easy , essentially rolling eyes over the endless proliferation and fragmentation of wine competitions.

Blogger, millennial consultant, and NextGen judge Leah Hennessey took offense, penning an open letter on her blog to "Mr." Heimoff:

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"I believe and hope that this competition will be very useful for the wine industry in recognizing patterns in taste among the panel of 20 or so judges within this valuable demographic. Through this experience, we may discover that the millennial judges all share certain likes or dislikes which can then be tested in the larger market, providing valuable data."

Heimoff replied, in soothing tones:

"This makes me remember when I was a young Baby Boomer and everyone told us we were taking over the world! Regardless of whether we did or didn't, it was an empowering feeling. After all, we were the generation that said 'Never trust anyone over 30.' So I certainly understand and respect the feeling Millennials have of being the wave of the future. Indeed you are...."

And further down in the comment section, wine writer and educator Tom Pellechia chimed in:

"Us 'old guards' remember when the competition was to evaluate and recognize winemaking achievement—it was about the wine and not about the judges."

Do you think the competition-winning wines would be completely different if another generation was judging?

About the author: Kara Newman has written about wine and spirits for such publications as Wine Enthusiast and Sommelier Journal magazines, and is the author of Spice & Ice, which explores 60 tongue-tingling cocktails.

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