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A New Year’s wine column usually focuses on the best of the previous year or predictions about the coming year. One scribe’s musings have minimal impact but hopefully can be educational. I’ve been there and done that with Grape Sense.

Instead of random ruminations let’s look at some facts. The Gallo company, yes Ernest and Julio’s namesake behemoth, conducts extensive research annually on wine drinkers and their behaviors. It makes for interesting reading.

Grape Sense LogoThe big wine news can be summarized as younger people are drinking more and more wine. Dry rose is still going through explosive growth. Wine drinkers are gathering recommendations from a wider number of resources than ever before.

The Gallo report said: “The top 3 factors that encourage wine drinkers to try a new wine include a friend or family recommendation (95%), bartender or sommelier recommendation (86%), and store employee recommendation (82%).”

There are age differences in how a consumer selects wine and perhaps they’re not all that surprising. Our younger friends, or millennials, are four times more likely to buy a wine based solely on the label. Baby Boomers, on the other hand, are looking for information. Boomers want to know where the wine comes from and love shelf talkers – those little notes by each wine describing the wine’s taste.

The average wine drinker sticks to what they know, mostly something I’ve argued against for years. But the average wine buyer sticks to about 3-4 brands they’ve tried and liked. The average price point for those folks is under $10 a bottle.

437479-Royalty-Free-RF-Clip-Art-Illustration-Of-A-Cartoon-Male-Wine-TasterHow do wine buyers see themselves? This was one of the more interesting categories. Those surveyed where given several choices. The top descriptor was Wine Adventurer at 35 percent, wine traditionalist at 20 percent while 25 percent described themselves as a wine novice. In smaller numbers, consumers selected brand loyalist with wine imposter and wine snob coming in at three percent each.

For years wine has become friendlier. If you like it, it’s a good wine. Don’t be intimidated by wine terms or other wine enthusiasts.

So what are winos afraid of, besides an empty bottle? Mispronouncing a wine’s name is the biggest fear at a whopping 42 percent. Another 27 percent feared talking about wine with someone else. Close behind was the fear of a waiter asking the consumer to taste before pouring and being judged by your wine choice.

Grape Sense has been focusing Rose’ for a number of years now. Young people no longer have to be sold. Millennials are almost twice more likely to buy dry pink than boomers. Rose’ tends to be seasonal though it holds up to many winter foods. Rose season starts in April, often when the new French vintage arrives, and peaks in late summer. Rose’ sales drop dramatically before Halloween.

There are more and more options today for convenience. Decent boxed wine is showing up at liquor stores and groceries. Consumers believe that boxed wine is “very convenient” while more than half of all consumers surveyed said they would have no issue drinking boxed wine as their ‘go to” wine source.

So what does all of it mean. It means that we end where we started with consumer trends and desires. Drink what you like and don’t worry about other opinions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about wine and don’t let the so-called experts or snobs intimidate you.

The final pitch is, as always, try something new. Try a new wine, a new label, or a new country and you might get a reward bigger than expected.

Cheers to 2016