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Following its recent survey of wine consumers, a local “interactive marketing agency” reported “staggering new research” indicates 35 percent of older Millennials drink wine “at least once a month.”

Once a month? Where was that survey taken, in North Platte, Neb.?

I don’t know about you, but I see a lot of the so-called Millennial crowd all over the place — and not just in Napa — quaffing wine in Bay Area wine bars and restaurants on a regular basis.

Last year, the Wine Market Council reported that the Millennial market (defined as consumers aged 21-34) is composed of 1.7 billion people worldwide and 77 million in the U.S. which is larger than the baby boomers and nearly three times the size of Generation X.

Of the Millennial generation’s wine drinking population, 51 percent fall into the “core drinkers” category, the Council survey found, and pull corks at least once a week, adds Alan Kropf, editor/publisher of Mutineer Magazine, a publication that focuses on the world beverage market. Kropf says 67 percent of those consumers surveyed by the Wine Market Council reported to have purchased unknown brands frequently or occasionally. Thirty-two percent of Millennials have traded over to wine from beer or spirits, as their preferred fine beverage, he added.

Kropf, like this winebibber, said the recent Napa-based survey by Invictus Marketing may have given short shrift to Millennial wine consumers. He pointed out that a mere 20 percent of those contacted for the Invictus survey were actually millennials themselves.

However, Kropf said one of the main points made by Invictus — the apparent lack of attention paid to the Millennial crowd by wine marketers — is valid.

Prashant Patel, president of Invictus Marketing, said there’s “a huge group of millennials with cash in hand” who are interested in wine, “yet on the surface, for some reason, wineries do not seem terribly interested in them or their money.”

“Forward-thinking wineries have begun to take note of this huge target market by using social media and other tools to target them,” Kropf points out. Yet, few have taken time to find out what Millennials want when it comes to wine, he adds.

To that end, Kropf and other Millennials with a stake in wine — knowing what this age group is all about — are bringing their dog-and-pony show — Mutineer Magazine’s Marvelous Millennial Wine Marketing Circus — to wine country this month, including a date in the Napa Valley to which area winery marketing folks have been invited.

Got to be real

“Young people are drinking wine — there’s no doubt about that,” Kropf said during a recent phone interview from his magazine headquarters in Southern California.

“But for so long, wine was an exclusive experience. Not all that long ago though, wine was a peasant’s drink. Then it became a status symbol, a symbol of luxury. There were write-ups by Wine Spectator and Robert Parker and it became about quality.

“In this country, wine just went through its adolescence ... we’re figuring out who we are as a wine culture. And I think wine is taking its lead from the craft beer business.”

The beverage industry expert pointed out that “when young people are getting into cocktails, they have a bartender as their shepherd. Craft beers and those knowledgeable about them are everywhere. When it comes to wine, for so long we were Eurocentric, particularly on the East Coast. And only in the past few decades has the California wine industry come on, with imports now vying for a share of the market. Wine is accessible to all today,” yet with very few guidelines that Generation Next feels is valid.

At the same time, “everything is changing” in the wine industry, particularly marketing and sales programs. We’ve seen the emergence of social media, but for many wineries making the transition has been difficult. There will be a huge shift in marketing in the United States.”

Kropf reminded us that wine “has been extremely regulated and there were few variables to play with. It’s been all about distribution, relationships and scores ... if you got it right you set yourself up for success (in the eyes of the consumer).”

Now, with the emergence of social media, consumers are talking to one another, he said. And they are asking different questions: “Who are you? What is your vision? What is your authenticity?

“Young people are more interested in how the wine tastes rather than its score. They want to drink something real, not mass produced ... to learn about the genesis of a great winemaker and a great vineyard. What they don’t want is for the industry to tell them what it thinks they want.”

The circus is coming

The local wine marketing assembly will take place May 18 at Charles Krug Winery. At this point, there’s a waiting list, but Kropf says he’ll try to accommodate as many local marketing managers as possible.

The free two-hour workshop, created by Mutineer Magazine, will cover topics including the Millennial wine consumer, Traditional PR in the Era of New Media, Next Level Social Media, Collaborative Marketing Strategies, Marketing Assets in the Era of New Media, Leveraging Tech to Collect Valuable Data, Connecting Your Brand With the Millennial Mindset and the Power of Beverage Culture

“We've assembled an exceptional roster of marketing-savvy wine professionals to shed some light on the Millennial wine market,” Kropf notes. “Much of that conversation has been focused on social media fundamentals and spiritless reinvention. Now, for the first time, wine industry professionals will hear directly from Millennials who are changing modern wine culture with their inspired platforms and innovative methods of connecting Millennial consumers with wine brands.”

“Millennials are forcing industries to reinvent themselves and the wine industry is no different,” said Morgan First, CEO and co-founder of Second Glass. “Join the circus and learn new social media and marketing feats that will allow you to navigate this new market with confidence.”

First and his partner at Second Glass, Tyler Balliet, are on the speakers’ panel for the upcoming event — both blurring the line between marketing and technology to transform the wine tasting experience for millennials.

In addition to Kropf, a member of the circus team is another Mutineer Magazine staffer, Harry Oranges. Prior to joining the magazine staff, Oranges oversaw the digital PR and social media strategy of the first Napa Valley Film Festival.

Also taking part in the upcoming seminar are:

• Christophe Smith, a producer at WineBizRadio.com, is a 10-year veteran of the wine industry who has worked in production, retail, marketing and national sales.

• Ashley Nicole Teplin, who owns and operates a public relations firm that deals with all aspects of the wine industry and beyond.

• Sarah Elliman pioneers new ways to help wineries reach their target audience and increase consumer response.

Kropf noted that all speakers are Millennials and are either marketing or media professionals. “This has never been done before,” he said of the traveling marketing circus.

While the local event is subscribed at present, he urged all who are interested to add their names to the waiting list. The complete Mutineer Magazine Marvelous Millennial Wine Marketing Circus schedule is:

• May 14: Calaveras County, Twisted Oak winery; winecircus2012calaveras.eventbrite.com

• May 15: Santa Barbara, Firestone winery; winecircus2012santabarbara.eventbrite.com.

• May 16: Paso Robles, EOS Wines; winecircus2012pasorobles.eventbrite.com.

• May 17 Sonoma Valley Sebastiani Winery; winecircus2012sonoma.eventbrite.com.

• May 18 Napa Valley Charles Krug; winecircus2012napa.eventbrite.com.

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