Enticing Millennial drinkers into the wine category is one of the biggest challenges facing the drinks industry.
According to the Wine Intelligence US Landscapes 2019 report there has been a “Millennial retreat” from wine. Overall number of regular wine drinkers in the US aged under 55 fell from 88 million in 2015 to 84 million in 2018. The ranks of regular wine consumers aged 21-24 was down to 6.5 million in mid-2018 from 7.5 million three years earlier.
Australia’s iconic Wolf Blass Wines, established in 1966, launched a Makers’ Project range last year to “start a conversation” with younger consumers.
Wolf Blass winemaker Clare Dry said Makers’ Project was launched to celebrate expertise and innovation in wine, while also appealing to Millennial drinkers, who relate to brands that have a story to tell.
Dry (above), who has been with the Wolf Blass team since she graduated from a Bachelor of Oenology at Adelaide University in 2007, is passionate about growing the brand’s fan base.
“The range builds on our founder, Wolfgang Blass’ original vision to create wines that taste great – wines people want to drink,” she explained.
“These are wines our winemakers love to make, wines that highlight innovative quirks as well as the winemaking processes that make them not only tasty, but fresh, original and exciting. Further to this, millennials are leading the conversation about wine, pushing established brands to create new paths of discovery. We recognised an opportunity to bring new, younger consumers into wine by providing something different to the category that celebrates that expertise and innovation.”
Makers’ Project uses three key techniques: free run, partial whole berry fermentation and early press.
“Firstly, free run wine is when the grapes are crushed into the press and all the juice that can freely drain from the skins to the tank is referred to as free run,” Dry explained.
“This produces wines that are balanced in acidity with high levels of purity in fruit aroma and flavour, such as our Pink Pinot Grigio and Rose.
“Partial whole berry fermentation is when the winemakers ferment a higher portion of whole berries, which leads to more full fruits and robust flavours with gentle complexities and spice characteristics. Try our Pinot Three or Reserve Shiraz to see this in practice.
“Finally, early press is the process that separates red wine from its skins. Flavour and structure are extracted during this process and by pressing early, before the completion of fermentation, a softer wine with fresh, bright fruit characters is created. Our Shiraz Grenache and Pinot Noir are the perfect example of this.”
Consumer reaction to the range
Dry said the range has been well received by liquor shoppers, particularly Millennial drinkers.
“Today’s wine consumers are also more open-minded than ever before and are waiting for brands to create that memory or experience that drives talkability among friends over a drink,” she noted.
“The Makers’ Project delivers that and overall we have found it is naturally appealing to a younger demographic than our usual Wolf Blass drinker.”
“The Pink Pinot Grigio is the currently the lead SKU in the range, we feel this is driven by the uniqueness and innovative story behind the wine,” Dry added.
“This wine as well as the Shiraz Grenache and Pinot Noir are currently all averaging 1.5 units per store per week.”
What’s next for Makers’ Project?
Dry also revealed that Makers’ Project has a Malbec on the way. While Malbec has been planted in Australia for a long time it is still a variety that is not very well known among Australian wine drinkers. That’s something Dry hopes to change.
“The variety itself was one of the first planted in Australia, specifically Langhorne Creek back in the late 1800’s,” she said.
“Wolf Blass has a long history with Malbec and calls on Langhorne Creek for the hero region of this variety. Notably, it is the third variety that often features in our iconic Black Label. We love the way Malbec completes a blend and adds an alluring shot of vibrant colour and fragrance to a wine.
“The Makers’ Project Malbec is an excellent example of the variety, showcasing lovely drinkability but with a point of difference to the traditional wines in our portfolio. It will be available in leading retailers nationwide from August onwards.”
Dry also teased that additional innovations are in the pipeline for the range.
“Watch this space for more additions to the portfolio as the winemaking team continue to innovate and highlight new winemaking techniques and expertise,” she said.