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Us-versus-them mentality of Millennials and Boomers must end

34 comments

 

Did you know that the U.S. wine market is “plagued by old guard attitude and pretension”?

So says Leora Kalikow, who describes herself on her Huffington Post blog as a “a wine geek and sommelier, dining and drinking her way through New York City” as well as “Director of Communications” for a company “dedicated to changing the way Millennials drink.”

Now, I don’t know Leora. She’s probably a very nice person, and I wish her well in her business endeavors, as well as in her wine-and-food peregrinations around the city where I was born and grew up. But I’m afraid she’s been drinking the Kool-Aid that says that Millennials are the be-all and end-all of everything meaningful in the culture today, while we old guard Boomers are–well, “plagued by attitude and pretension.”

Let’s get our ducks in a row.

I’ve met plenty of Boomers with “attitude” and I’ve met plenty of Millennials with “attitude.” “Attitude” isn’t a phenomenon restricted to any one age group. “Attitude” occurs in people who don’t know how to treat others lovingly and respectfully. If you have “attitude,” you behave one way with people you like and approve of, while you treat everybody else like merde. So let’s dispense with this Boomer “attitude” thing.

What about “pretension”? I suppose some of the Boomers Leora runs into (presumably, as she’s dining and drinking her way through New York City) appear pretentious to her. What does this mean? Only Leora really knows, but we can infer that every once in a while a Boomer will say something about wine that strikes Leora as snobby. Again, we’ve all met pretentious people, but are Boomers any more pretentious than anyone else? I don’t think so.

In fact, to accuse the American wine market of being “plagued by old guard attitude and pretention” is a bit hyperbolic, isn’t it? “Plagued” is an awfully strong word; AIDS is a plague, not people Leora finds annoying. If Leora really feels that way, I would suggest that the “attitude” might be on her part, not on the Boomers’.

There’s more. “Millennials have learned to embrace, accept and expect the good life…no generation has exhibited such a pronounced desire for the finer things since [sic] this one,” Leora writes. Leaving aside that problematic word “since,” I have a one-word reaction: Really? One might have thought that upper-class Europeans and Americans during The Gilded Age [c. 1870-1900] were more attracted to gilt and glitter than the Milliennials; or perhaps the get-rich-at-any-cost ambitions of Reagan-era Americans (a generation than spawned more MBAs than any before or since), or even my own Baby Boomers, who certainly never met any aspect of “the good life”, whether it be gustatory, sexual or pharmacological, they didn’t embrace.

The problem with such axiomatic pronouncements is that they fail to correspond with reality. What one can say about Millennials is that they have access to more of the world’s cultural influences [including wine and food] than any generation before. But Millennials are not in kind different from any other generation. This is a meme you often hear here at steveheimoff.com. Human nature doesn’t change in fundamental ways, despite whatever technological advances may be occurring.

This has been my core problem with some Millennialistas and their inflated view of themselves: this predilection to believe that they, with their social media and smartphones, are somehow qualitatively different from, and inherently superior to, the “pretentious old guard,” who apparently wrecked everything, leaving them to pick up the pieces. I have never understood the animus Millennials hold toward Boomers, which may be more a function of their own familial psychodramas vis-a-vis their parents than of anything objective.  I wish we could finally end this us vs. them mentality of Millennials and Boomers, whose origins I lay at the doorstep of the former.

  1. Steve,

    I blinked twice when reading this too. But didn’t write about it. Had I done so, I would have point out this comment from the article:

    “Unlike baby boomers, Millennials don’t need a special occasion to drink wine. In fact, many Millennials consider cooking, relaxing and watching TV to be prime “wine drinking times.”

    over at the Huffington Post article there is a link off of the “don’t need a special occasion” that takes you to an article by Liz Thatch that outlines a survey of why Milennials drink wine. Guess what the #1 reason is: SPECIAL OCCASION!

    Nice post.

  2. Tom: Exactly. Thanks.

  3. Scott Mahon says:

    So the generation that coined the phrase “don’t trust anyone over thirty” is being called old and pretentious by the current twenty-somethings. The chance has seemingly come again for writers and critics to prophesize. Or will they tweet that the times are a changin’?
    However, I think you’ll continue to see these lines not due to a new generation gap, but as these are the two generations most likely to have free spending capital. If there was nothing extraordinary about millenial habits and tastes, why would you need a specialized marketing firm to help you reach them?

  4. Yes, it’s all a bit like Sarah Palin’s “real america” framework, applied to generations.
    That is to say: ignorant, unnecessarily divisive, and smugly self important

  5. dr: Agreed!

  6. hahahahaha, Steve once again shows how thin skinned he is for someone who has no problem throwing bombs at others. EVERY generation tries to plant its own flag, declare its uniqueness, and beg for attention. I believe the Boomers’ behavior in the 1960s is pretty much the model for this behavior.

  7. PA Wine
    I have no stake whatever friction exists between you and Steve H.
    However, it seems the issue is not with any activities, collectively, that any “generation” engages in (or is purported to engage in) in the pursuit of differentiation. Nor does it seem that the problem is with the “generation” in question.
    Seems the issue is with the amusingly ignorant and self absorbed commentary of one writer

  8. imho, this is an experiential, not a generational, issue. When you start drinking wine, it’s not intellectually interesting – it’s simply hedonistic. Over time you either get more interested in it or you don’t – like my 86 year old mother who probably buys wine using the same criteria as millennials.

    To say that wine is more mainstream with millennials than previous generations is accurate, but how does that impact the natural evolution of wine interest? It’s a really bad and incorrect cliché to talk about wine enthusiasts as pretentious or snobs. That’s like calling hard-core NASCAR fans or fantasy football enthusiasts pretentious for parading all of their knowledge of tires or defensive formations. Or worse… what about the 22 year old who obsesses over the source of their microgreens but is happy drinking a bottle of something manufactured in a Diageo lab?

    This generation distinction really seems like something created by the media. Maybe I’m wrong… can somebody point out three brands that have done an excellent job at creating product for and marketing to millennials?

  9. Janeen Olsen says:

    Good points! I have always felt that describing wine consumers primarily by their generational group is overly simplistic. Having taught wine business classes at Sonoma State for over a decade now where most of my students belong to the Millennial generation, I have come to appreciate the diversity in this group of wine drinkers. Sure, some younger consumers do drink wine for relaxation and social reasons, as well as on special occasions. (Isn’t that true for Baby Boomers as well?) Some of my students primarily purchase value priced wines from supermarkets for weekend parties, some more expensive wines from wineries for special dinners, whereas others have started collecting expensive wines for their cellars. Of course someone could point out that these Millennial students residing in wine country in Northern California do not represent the entire country. But that really is my point, Millennial consumption is also influenced by geography, motivation, lifestyle, values, occasion, affluence, education, etc. They are not a monolithic group when it comes to wine consumption any more than the Baby Boomers are.

  10. Bob Henry says:

    Steve,

    The Wall Street Journal recently ran this front page article on the job prospecting woes of the “Millennials”:

    “Wanted: Jobs for the New ‘Lost’ Generation”

    [Link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323893004579057063223739696.html

    Excerpt:

    “. . . a lost generation . . . that is only now beginning to gain attention of many economists and employment experts. . . . young people have come of age amid the most prolonged period of economic distress since the Great Depression.

    “Most . . . have little memory of the financial crisis itself, which struck while they were still in high school. But they are all too familiar with its aftermath: the crippling recession, which made it all but impossible for many young people to get a first foothold in the job market, and the achingly slow recovery that has left the prosperity of their parents’ generation out of reach — perhaps.

    “‘This has been for quite a while now a hostile environment for young people,’ said Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center, which has studied the impact of the recession on young people. ‘This is all they’ve really known.’”

    For those among them who are wine enthusiasts, it may seem an unobtainable goal to ever taste — let alone own — top tier red Burgundies and red Bordeaux or “cult” Cabernets, which garner such fawning praise (and disproportionate coverage) in the wine press.

    “Millennials” may well feel they have their proverbial noses pressed up against the glass, looking in on a party they are not invited to –- or can buy admission to.

    Let’s have a little empathy for a group who see themselves more as “have nots” than “haves.”

    ~~ Bob

  11. I’m a ‘millennial’ and I’ll drink with anyone, young or old. I have only one requirement: You gotta be cool.

    Also, I agree with you that both “olds” and “youngs” can have attitude. The problem has nothing to do with age. I imagine it feels incredibly insulting when a young buck gives an elder attitude.

    While we stride together into the next millennium, perhaps both you and I can just keep doing what we do best: appealing to an increasingly diverse wine-drinking audience. After all, most folks seem more congenial after they’ve had a glass.

  12. Madeline: “after they’ve had a glass…” or three!

  13. Bob Henry, perhaps we could all have a little more empathy for everyone.

  14. Bob Henry says:

    Steve,

    “. . . perhaps we could all have a little more empathy for everyone.”

    I’m 100 points on that.

    (Some sage observed that “it is hard to hate up close.” Spend some time with Millennials and listen to their concerns.)

    ~~ Bob

  15. Bob Henry, I spent a lot of time with Millennials. It’s my pleasure to do so!

  16. Douglas Allan says:

    As a Millennial working in the wine business, I will say that too much is made of Millennials and our relationship with wine. Just like everything in media today, a lot is sensationalized. From my perspective, Millennials have our own generational issues and proclivities just like all other generations before us and after us. And just like any human beings who are not the same, there is bound to be jealously and resentment toward the other side. So, if both sides can just agree to disagree, then we can all just get along. HA! As if…

    Having bull-headed, speculative writers from both generations square off in a heated battle of “who’s better” is quite entertaining even if it’s not entirely accurate. So, have it!

    As usual, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. So, if you are trying to figure out how to understand either generation, don’t try too hard because you may just lose your authenticity, and after all, isn’t that what Millennials want in their wines?

  17. “Unlike baby boomers, Millennials don’t need a special occasion to drink wine. In fact, many Millennials consider cooking, relaxing and watching TV to be prime “wine drinking times.” Hmm, I’m too old to be considered a Boomer, and yet that description of Millennials applies to me and my friends, some of whom are even older than I am. We also love sipping a dry rose while we’re sitting in the back yard enjoying the sun. Maybe we can’t handle three glasses in a short period of time anymore, but our enjoyment of the entire experience is richer because we have had so many other experiences.

  18. Nancy, thanks. I hope you have many good times sipping a dry rose with your friends!

  19. Ed Guelld says:

    Steve,
    You may think she’s drunk the “kool-aid” but you took her snark bait. I think there was more than a bit of tongue-in cheekieness to her post while yours has more of “methinks he protest too much” response. Along with the obvious human endeavors the wine biz attaches itself to (music and art, for example), I’ve always felt a bit uneasy when one becomes too serious about something as enjoyable as the moderate consumption of alcohol…and the resulting good craiq. Cheers!

  20. I have never understood the animus Millennials hold toward Boomers, which may be more a function of their own familial psychodramas vis-a-vis their parents than of anything objective. I wish we could finally end this us vs. them mentality of Millennials and Boomers, whose origins I lay at the doorstep of the former.

    To sir with lo-o-o-ve (did they show this movie in the USA??). It’s the same thing, all over and over again.

  21. CT: I believe To Sir With Love was shown here, a long time ago.

  22. Hmmm, the nature of this non-debate rings a bell.
    Could it not be the case that that millions and millions of Millennials in fact do not believe that the US wine market is plagued by old guard attitude and pretension, and have minds and opinions of their own, and that it’s only the spokespersons (or “champions”) of the millennial generation that believe so (or say so, at any rate)? How can such few people possibly represent the views of so many millions? Has some kind of survey been done asking the question “Do you think the US wine market is plagued by old guard attitude and pretension?”?

  23. Full disclosure – I am a Millennial, just barely. I was born in 1980, Reagan was just elected into office the week I was born.

    I have always hated isolating anyone into generalized categories – age, race, education. But in marketing that is very much what has been done for a long time. It was the data that was more easily collected. I think [good] wine marketers are wanting to identify with a personality, not an age, race or education. Millennial and Boomers are just too large of a classification. The more broad a brand is the more diluted it’s messaging. Also, for the wine drinker to make judgements at either age group isn’t fair. It is nauseating.

    If there is pretension in wine drinkers – in any age group, It would be that type of person who attaches value to who they are as a person by how much they know about wine. Wine is subjective and it is an experience. No one has authority over another person’s experience.

  24. GrapesRGreat says:

    As a millennial and an uber-winegeek, I find that my wife and I gravitate toward an older crowd when we are looking to drink good wine. This is for several reasons including the fact that our 20 something friends are generally less willing to pony up the dough for nicer bottles and are not satisfied with wine/food being primary topics of conversation.

    As far as the old guard attitude piece, I find the wine world that I live in to be in near perfect balance. If I want to have a spirited debate about the Parkerization of Bordeaux, the modern winemaking/bottling techniques of Mollydooker, or how Barolo compares to Barbaresco, I can find people and places to do such a thing.

  25. Donn Rutkoff says:

    Why bother reading the Huffington? And she works at a company “dedicated to changing the way Millennials drink.” ??? Oh really???

    Why doesn’t Ms. Geek NYC somm go to Paso Robles and work in the vines for a few years? NYC is NOT where most wine drinkers live and no matter how many articles about NYC are written in the glossy mags, the overwhelming majority of wine drinkers just want good wine, not a psychologist or a restaurant employee patronizingly bestowing an ID badge on their id.

    Sheesh. Drivel. Just drivel.

  26. Now, now, Mr. Donn, don’t get snarky!

  27. Think that the controversy, so called, between baby boomers and Millennials is like the current crisis, in Congress between the Democrats and the Republicans. That is, one side doesn’t listen and the other side thinks it knows it all. I will leave to Steve’s wise readers to determine which side is which. Frankly, I think its much ado about nothing. Or could I change that around and say its much nothing about ado?

  28. Steve Weinberg says:

    “Why can’t we all just get along”! I have two Millennial son’s who grew up in our gastro-sensual house. They tasted great wine and food throughout their lives and they now embrace craft beers and artisinal spirits and single malt scotch. I taught them about wine, their mother taught them about great food preparation and they taught me about beer. Wine snobs will always exist (I think it is related to the Small Penis Syndrome). I think the best way to resolve the issue is to have a Mill/Boom BYOW tasting.
    Steve

  29. Dear Steve W., thanks. No single tasting will resolve this.

  30. Bob Henry says:

    Steve,

    Methinks Steve W. is proposing something more akin to “the presidential beer summit.”

    More “prost!” and less inter-generational “roast.”

    [Memory jog: http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2009-07-31/opinions/36880326_1_james-crowley-beer-drinkers-samuel-adams-light

    ~~ Bob

  31. i’m gonna make a wine specifically for millenials called “instagram selfie of my tattoo”

  32. and a wine for boomers called “the good old days”

  33. Steve, potshots aside, and being a Johnny-come-lately to wine, I still hold to Thoreau’s notion that the same veil that obscures one generation’s vision obscures another, we are all human (I suppose), and that’s the real category that should concern us, but in an age of divide and conquer I’m not surprised.
    Let me digress with this: You are a writer too, and I love the word “peregrinations”, a love not so much rooted in “pilgrim”, but in “Peregrine” which dominates the canyons of NYC.

  34. Bob Henry says:

    Steve,

    From today’s Wine Business Monthly trade periodical e-mail news blast:

    “Goodbye, Wine Snobs: How E. & J. Gallo Winery Courts Millennials”

    Wine Over Ice? Younger Consumers Not Tied to Drinking Traditions

    [Link: http://adage.com/print/244559 ]

    – and –

    “How Millennials are Changing the Wine Industry”

    The Millennial generation, which includes the youngest legal drinkers, is consuming more wine than previous generations when they turned 21, and the industry is taking note.

    [Link: http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2013/10/08/how-millennials-are-changing-wine-industry/print

    ~~ Bob

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