It was only a matter of time before wine marketing geniuses turned their attention from baby boomers to millennials.
Millennials are broadly defined as those born between 1976 and 1996, and the Pew Research Center puts the number of millennials in the U.S. at about 75 million.
Generally, millennials are characterized as environmentally concerned, socially liberal, technology savvy, balancing workplace and home, and proponents of political correctness. It is thought that the Great Recession greatly impacted many young millennials’ careers and earnings. And the
preponderance of student loan debt among this group has hindered wealth accumulation.
However, that hasn't dampened their avid appreciation for wine. In 2015, millennials accounted for 42 percent of all wine sold in the U.S., according to the Wine Market Council. Their annual consumption average was 2 cases a person. Among those who say they drink several times a week, millennials accounted for 30 percent.
Furthermore, millennials are more attracted to cutting-edge graphics and trendy lingo, rather than stately labels with French chateaus. Wine producers believe this age group has a more adventurous taste, so blending wines across appellations or violating other long-standing traditions do not bother them.
One example of a producer targeting the millennial crowd is Ziobaffa, a family of eco-friendly and bargain-priced Italian wines. The project was conceived during a Tuscan film-making trip by California filmmaker Jason Baffa, eco-surfer Chris Del Morro and their Italian winemaker friend Piergiorgio Castellani.
While many wine producers are migrating to organic grape growing when possible, Ziobaffa has taken environmental sensitivity to the next level. Ziobaffa utilizes the Helix cork, which allows for removal and re-closure multiple times by hand twisting the cork. Both the cork closure and the glass bottles are sustainable and glass is recyclable. All of their grapes are organic, no GMO products are used, and the wine-making process is vegan. FSC certified paper is used for the labels and only non-toxic glue is used to affix the label to the bottle. It is not a wine baby-boomers would enshrine.
In addition to the appeal to eco-conscious millennials, Ziobaffa has priced their wines to appeal to this cash-strapped group. Their 2013 Ziobaffa Toscana IGT red wine and 2016 Ziobaffa IGT pinot grigio sell for about $12 per bottle, planting both of these wines in bargain wine territory.
The pinot grigio is made in the southern Puglia region of Italy and, according to Ziobaffa's literature, is naturally low in sulfites. The wine offers lovely pear flavors with some floral notes in the nose. The Ziobaffa Toscana 2013 red wine, however, was our hands-down favorite, drinking way above its price point. Great bright fruit nose with cherry and plum notes. Very rich and round, it is a real crowd pleaser at a great price.
Dolin Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay 2014 ($39). This lush, balanced chardonnay from Santa Maria Valley has beautiful apple and peach notes with a hint of vanilla and spice. Very long and elegant finish.
La Crema Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2014 ($40). La Crema is making a lot of good juice in California and Oregon. This gem has forward plum flavors with a dash of spice and tobacco.
Domaine la Casenove La Garrigue 2009 ($15). This blend of carignane, syrah, and grenache is a ridiculously delicious wine for the price. We highly recommend it. From the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France, it shouts ripe black cherry fruit, a splash of licorice and earthy, barnyard garrigue.
La Grange de Quatre Sous Cuvee Garsinde 2014 ($20). We weren't surprised to see this wine imported by Kermit Lynch. You can count on this importer to find interesting producers from France. This Pay D'Oc is a delicious blend of malbec (60 percent), cabernet franc and syrah. Forward, ripe blueberry and strawberry fruit with a velvet mouthfeel.
Flora Springs Family Select Chardonnay 2016 ($35). When we pitted this chardonnay against several others, it stood out for its balance. It has just the right amount of creaminess, oak and acidity. Full bodied, it has tropical fruit flavors and a dose of spice and almonds. We dare you to stop at one glass.
Parducci Small Lot Chardonnay 2015 ($13). Wow, what a deal. Most of this wine is stainless-steel fermented, which preserves the fruit, lightens those heavy oak flavors, and enables the producer to keep down the costs (oak barrels cost more than $1,000 apiece!). Apple and pear flavors dominate the palate.
Vicente Faria Animus Vinho Verde 2015 ($13). Vinho Verde is Portugal's prized region for white wine and this one adds a bit of effervescence and a little sweetness to make it interesting. Citrus and melon notes from this mostly loureiro-grape wine.
Heitz Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012 ($52). From the legendary winery founded by the late Joe Heitz in 1961, this cabernet sauvignon was a delight to savor. Bright cassis and cherry nose and flavors with a bare hint of oak make this wine one to consider now or in three years.
Rutherford Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2013 ($51). This is a very intense Napa cabernet sauvignon with great structure and ripe cassis and plum notes. Beautiful vanilla and cedar complement this very accessible wine.
Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2013 ($50). This is another legendary Napa Valley winery that is still producing outstanding wines. Very accessible now, this wine is 75 percent cabernet sauvignon with the other four classic Bordeaux varietals making up the balance in the blend. Outstanding cherry and berry notes with an appropriate oak frame and spice notes. Delicious!