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Nov 19, 2017

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Opinion
by Darryl Roberts
Magazine Issue: Vol. 2.4
O P I N I O N
where we're going from here
N E X T P A G E >
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Every year, four million people in the United States turn 21 years old. That's four million new consumers in this country alone who can legally drink alcohol.

I subscribe to a lot of Gen X magazines because I not only like reading them, but I also like keeping current with trends and with what's happening in my generation. Since I basically don't have a life, these magazines are my major venue of social outreach and research. On a professional level, they help me keep Wine X fresh, current and in tune with what my peers feel comfortable reading. And because our generation is not a magazine-reading demographic as much as, say, our parents' generation, there's a finer line of what's acceptable by my peers.

If you thumb through Gen X-oriented magazines you'll find a plethora of alcohol ads touting everything from micro-brews to scotch to vodka. Marketers of these potable are very savvy. They understand that we form our lifelong consumption habits when we're in our mid- to late-twenties. So if they can get us to begin using their product on a regular basis by age 25, there's a very good chance that we'll consume it on a regular basis for the rest of our lives. Sure we'll try new things and experiment as we get older. But the products that are staples in our lives at age 25 will more than likely be our mainstays at age 50. Sounds pretty simple. And it is.

So where in the hell is wine industry?

In all the Gen X magazines I subscribe to, I've only seen two wine ads. One that appeals to my parents' generation and another that simply isn't appealing at all (to anyone). And this troubles me. Why is the industry only spending ad dollars to advertise to itself in trade magazines when, for the same cost (or probably less), they can reach out to 50 million potential consumers in their twenties? Why isn't the wine industry trying to reach the next generation of wine consumers before they set their consumption habits for life?

Because Gen X magazines aren't glamorous. They're not coffee-table dressings. They don't showcase the "good life" that wine supposedly represents. They don't contain beautiful pictures of black-tied executives enjoying a first-growth Bordeaux in $80 Reidel stemware. They don't feature forums for affluent winery owners to stroke their egos. And let's face it, the majority of winery owners in California are "the rich and famous." They live the "Spectator" lifestyle. So, of course, they promote it. Maybe unwittingly, maybe not. But the truth of the matter is that the wine industry feels comfortable promoting itself in the very way that it does because that's how most of wine industry execs live.

Gen X magazines, on the other hand, got a bunch of green-haired, body-pierced, tattoo-covered grungers listening to and acting on things to which the majority of industry old timers can't relate. Weird music, unpretentious fashion and a lifestyle of the poor and forgotten. You need eyeglasses to read the tiny typeface and a map to follow the graphic design. Gen X publications contain strange, alien subject matter and have nothing to do with the majority of the wine industry. Except one thing: the future. Like it or not, relate to them or not, understand them or not, these green-haired, body-pieced, tattoo-covered grungers are the future wine drinkers in this country. Or they're not. And if they're not, then these rich, first-growth-Bordeaux-drinking winery owners can kiss their businesses good-bye. Because no industry can survive without the support of Generation X.

It seems rather ironic, too. Maybe even hypocritical. Because although I'm too young to remember the sixties, I believe the Baby Boomers were met with the same arrogance, criticism and alienation by their parents who couldn't relate to, understand or comprehend what the hell their kids were doing in their twenties. I guess that's why they call it the generation gap.

Well, I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the wine industry can not continue to ignore such a huge and powerful segment of the population and expect these people to turn around one day and support them. So maybe, like generations before them, the Boomers (and beyond) should learn a lesson and start reaching out to their kids before it's too late.

Post Note: My good friend and mentor, Greg Upton, passed away recently, losing his bout with Leukemia. He was 39 years old. Greg took me under his wing at Franciscan Estates and taught me, among other things, how to make wine. He was a generous person, a great winemaker and wonderful family man. I will miss him, as will the wine industry.

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