What Millennials Want From Their Wine

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

A thought struck me the other night while serving a table of four diners who looked young enough that I carded them. We were having a conversation about which Washington syrah would best suit their needs, and I realized: This generation, mine, is the one that will shape wine programs going forward. So what exactly does that mean?

For one thing, I think we’ll see less reliance on classics, whether regions or varietals. While those touchstones will always have a place, we’re moving away from an era when wine lists are defined by the wines from France, Italy, and Napa Valley. Wine lists these days are almost as likely to feature grüner veltliner and Beaujolais as Chablis or Bordeaux.

That said, I’ve long thought that the experiential side of drinking wine wouldn’t necessarily change with the generations. While there’s been speculation that technology will put sommeliers out of business, I tend to think that as long as restaurants and bars exist, we’re going to want to interact with a real person to get our drinks.

Fortunately, this isn’t just conjecture: I recently spoke with Rhonda Hammond, associate professor of hospitality business at Washington State University, about a study she’d conducted on the wine buying and ordering habits of millennials. The main takeaway, as she described it, was that for all that we love about our tech, we want to hear the story of our wine from a somm, not a tablet. In that regard, there wasn’t much difference across various generations; turns out that good service is still good service.

Interestingly, millennials also seemed disinterested in rating systems and points, at least compared to wine drinkers of other generations. I want to offer a potential explanation for that phenomenon, which I’d consider well-thought-out but lacking in actual evidence. Ratings emerged at a time when American wine was first getting worldwide attention, and when wine drinking was slowly becoming a larger part of the American cultural landscape. A more scientific-seeming rating system (0 to 100 just seems so authoritative) and the sense that wines can be compared in a linear fashion made wine buying seem fairly simple: More points equals a better wine.

That system has long had flaws, but the biggest reason to abandon it is that unless your tastes align perfectly with that of the rater, there’s no real reason to expect the rating to actually hold true. Beyond that, we’ve wanted to find our own frontiers in the world of wine; that we still want a person to take us on that journey is heartening to those of us who like having that job.

barcode@seattleweekly.com

More in Eat Drink Toke

The Super Bowl Stiff-Arms Medical Marijuana

The Super Bowl declined to air a medical-marijuana ad and scored an all-time low with fans.

The Many Genders of Cannabis

So how can you tell them apart?

Celebrate Black History Month With Seattle Chef Edouardo Jordan

Honest representation in the kitchen is key for the James Beard Award-winning chef and restaurateur.

The Gerald’s PJ&B Grilled Cheese Is the Best Thing I Ate All Month

I’ve been lucky enough to live in Seattle for 12 years. And… Continue reading

How To Roll A Joint

Brush up your skills on this classic toking device.

5 Entertaining Seattle Food Experiences in 2019

Here are five restaurants serving exceptional meals where the entertainment rivals the food.

Hallucinogenic Strains of Cannabis

Any strain with over 18 percent THC is thought to be more likely to induce these conditions.

My 2019 To-Doobie List

My hopes for the New Year in weed

Mala kotteri and gyoza at Ooink in Seattle. Photo courtesy of Ooink
The 9 Best Soups for Surviving Winter in Seattle

From pho to clam chowder, the Emerald City has you covered

My Best High of 2018

Just in the world of weed, we saw some cool stuff happen

Cannabis And Winter Solstice

Numerous civilizations and spiritual traditions around the planet will celebrate this low spot in the sun’s path.

Illustration by James Stanton
Toasted Holidaze

It’s a privilege to be able to escape holiday stressors with weed, but that might not be a good idea.