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Wine Business 2023: The Wine Apocalypse Is Here

Wine Armageddon has finally arrived. It came in the form of the newest Silicon Valley report, The State of the Wine Industry 2023.

Rob McMillan, EVP and Founder of Silicon Valley Bank, Wine Division, has been sounding the alarm for years.

Apocalypse Now

McMillan states that while Boomers still lead in consumption, consumers under 50 are choosing other alcoholic beverages over wine. Add in Dry January and the growing number of non-alcoholic beverages, and you can see the problem.

Boomers grew up with wine. You can almost hear them chortling, taking credit for single-handedly keeping a juggernaut of a business afloat. Millennials, on the other hand, have turned a cynical eye on wine. They see it as a staid, snobby, and unimaginative beverage.

When you consider the huge increase in wineries and vineyards over the past 40 years, it all stacks up to a dismal consumer situation.

La Dolce Vita

The average Boomer was 10 years old when the Robert Mondavi Winery was built in 1966, heralding a new age for wine in the U.S.

Ten years later, in 1976, the Judgement of Paris event put California wine on the global stage.

The following decade gave Boomers a strong economy. The wine industry exploded in 1994, and the trend continued until Covid hit in 2020.

The wine business matured under perfect conditions, with the perfect generation riding the tidal wave.

Wine captured the imagination and the wallets of Boomers, resulting in gloating, hoarding, and ever-increasing prices for top wines.

The average age of Boomers is now 66. As they make their exit from the planet, graciously or not, the wine business will cry alligator tears, believing they did everything right and that all future generations should fall in line.

The Conversation

Millennials aren’t falling in line with the wine industry’s desires. But that doesn’t mean the sky is falling.

Wine professionals can — and should — connect with and educate younger generations without hubris. Wine has many of the attributes younger people crave: Authentic experiences, high-quality products, variety, fair value, transparency, and both climate consciousness and responsibility.

Wineries, distributors, importers, and retailers are missing the boat by holding onto Boomers or abandoning them altogether in hopes of capturing the youth.

Instead, they should try to bridge the generations, blending the past with the future.

Winemakers can promote intergenerational events, dinners, tastings, talks, and webinars to encourage curiosity and share knowledge. They can enlist Boomers, who know and love their products, as brand ambassadors to the next generations — their children’s and grandchildren’s.

Children frequently reject their parents’ ideals. They want to find their own way in the world. But they also want to be part of a family, to contribute to enriching family life. And if wine is about anything, it’s about family and community.

Wine professionals should focus on bringing generations together. The industry can expand participation, build on new ideas, and create a new vision for the future of wine.


Jeanne Savelle

Jeanne Savelle writes about wine for wineries, importers, and distributors. She has several certifications from The Wine Scholar Guild and WSET. She has spent 30 years following the wine business around the world. You can learn more at:,

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