Yes, Millennials Will Embrace Napa, Bordeaux and Burgundy Wine
Assuming we don’t fall victim to a zombie apocalypse between now and 2045, what are the odds that in that year the likes of Rolex, Aston Martin, Chanel, Cartier, and Four Seasons will have gone belly up? What are the odds that St. Barts, Aspen, Bora Bora, Ibiza and Monaco will no longer be destinations for the wealthy?
The odds are small. Very small. These are all brands that possess enormous equity that has been earned over time and remained relevant over time. It would be foolish to think that today’s millennials who don’t yet have the coin to frequent these places and brands still won’t when their lot moves into the rich and famous slot down the road. It’s about aspiration.
Why then do some today believe that the wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy and Napa Valley won’t also be the objects of desire for the 4o and 50-year-old Millennials? It’s a refrain and warning I’ve heard from numerous quarters. The line goes that today’s Millennials, now all at drinking age, are eschewing these well-known wines for bottlings from far-flung regions that offer something new and hip and that this doesn’t bode well for the future of today’s luxury wine regions.
What the luxury doomsayers seem not to get is that Bordeaux, Burgundy and Napa Valley, like the brands and places listed above, are as much ideas as they are things and places. They have earned a place in our aspirational dreams. They are icons of success and arrival—in addition to being items of the highest quality and alluring attraction.
The brand masters behind these objects and places understand that. Their marketing confirms this. Rolex isn’t a watch. It’s an heirloom. Channel isn’t a black dress. It’s a well cultivated attitude. Four Seasons isn’t a hotel room. It’s an escape from the mundane. The Napa Valley isn’t just a source of great wine. It’s a state mind; a lifestyle.
Napa Valley, Burgundy, and Bordeaux will have no problem maintaining the very high quality of the wines they currently produce. The economics behind the wines, the support the regions received from the trade, the climate and soils assure this. Nor will they have any problem maintaining their luxury reputations in anticipation of the arrival of the finally-arrived Millennials. Napa will retain its beauty. The worlds greatest chefs will continue to feel the region’s tug. Luxurious beds will remain. And the stewards of Napa’s reputation understand that too much is at stake to take their eye off the ball. More importantly, the wines from these places, reputations maintained, will serve for the more well-off Millennials as symbols and totems of success, power and wealth. They will see them as examples of the best in a category. And they, like today’s well off, will flock to them.
Those who warn that Millennials are leaving the greatest wine regions of the world behind either haven’t studied the nature of desire or have an interest in the semi-great or rising wine regions of the world, or both.