How did a divine cordial once honored and revered by all economic levels of the Athenian masses turn into a stodgy, luxurious beverage only the privileged (and aged) few were suited to enjoy? How indeed, when there's an untapped market of potential oenophiles, curious to absorb the chemistry behind its infectious character, anxious to visit the rich landscape of its origin and thirsty to sample the vast cellar of its vintages. The potent potable known as wine is ripe and pouring its way into the hearts and minds of Gen X crowds. Yet mainstream wine marketers are still ignoring this age group, a sad reality Darryl Roberts, 37, editor of Wine X, is determined to change.
"There are 80 million Gen Xers out there, and nobody is really targeting them," says Roberts, whose bi-monthly wine consumer magazine, Wine X, and e-zine, www.winexwired.com, target 21- to-35-year-olds with edgy and humorous articles serving to demystify wine and attack the elitism surrounding it. Inspired by a trip to the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, the Santa Rosa, California, entrepreneur started a tasting group and newsletter in 1997 and turned his passion into Wine X.
Roberts isn't alone. "So much of how wine is presented is so boring," says Kim Caffrey, whose Wine, Woman & Laughs in Calistoga, California, seeks to remedy that with its wine education classes. Currently developing regularly scheduled classes in Napa Valley, Caffrey uses humor to make the topic more palatable for younger audiences.
Wine devotee Todd Alexander, 32, got his own education in wine through a post-college job at a leading Italian wine importer, experience at a high-end Manhattan wine retailer, and five months spent interviewing wine makers in Italy. In 1994, he turned his passion into Vendemmia, a wine distribution company in Atlanta. In jeans and a T-shirt, he smashes the smug image associated with wine. "We pull corks and let people decide if they like it," he says. "We try to take the snob appeal out of wine. I mean, the people who make the wine aren't pretentious.
- Trendy wine bars, like EOS in San Francisco, are all the rage among twentysomethings.
- Sonoma Valley's "Wine Brats," three young vineyard heirs, are spreading the "wine is hip" philosophy through wine raves that make the nectar of the gods much easier to swallow.
- Stanford Graduate School of Business holds wine circles to encourage networking and socializing.
- Small, down-to-earth wineries like Ravenswood in Sonoma, California, attract young devotees, some of whom even tattoo themselves with the intriguing label, a trinity of claw-clutching ravens.