The Debate about Wine Competitions and Millennials

I’ve seen a few interesting blog posts the last few days.  The first was by Steve Heimhoff ( regarding the news that a Millennial Wine Competition has been formed for this June.  Steve does not appear to be in support of the competition. The second was a response from Leah Hennessy defending the competition (

For the record, I am a judge in this competition.  As a Millennial professional in the wine industry, I am very excited to be involved.  I feel that we as a generation tend to trend towards different tastes than previous generations however this is not unusual, nor is it limited to wine.  According to recent surveys (whose sites I can’t find at the moment…sorry to the documentation police) our generation in France is trending away from wine as a social drink primarily because wine is seen as an older generation’s drink.  In the US the opposite trend has been seen as Leah sited in her blog.  This competition has been designed to try and discover what that taste is.  It of course will be the combined tastes of the panel of judges however it is valid in the fact that this is the first competition of its kind.  On this point I think Steve was a bit harsh, but he is entitled to his opinion.  Goodness knows if one doesn’t stir up a little controversy, then who would read a blog in the first place.

I do agree with what I feel was the underlying point of Steve’s post.  I took this to be that there are too many wine competitions in general. This point was absolutely right.  The more competitions there are the less and less the awards given actually mean.  I do not think that this applies to this particular competition because it is trying to delve down into a specific target audience as opposed to every county fair wine competition in the country.  There are very reputable wine competitions.  The problem is that the vast majority of consumers don’t know how to tell the really highly coveted medals from the rest.  A winery isn’t going to tell you if it entered the prestigious international competitions or the one down the street.  They typically will tell you that their wine is award winning.

As a winemaker, I must say it feels good to win ANY awards. It justifies in your mind the fact that you are doing a good job and this has been certified by an independent authority.   When I won my first Gold medal it felt AWESOME and I really didn’t care what competition gave it to me.  However, let’s face it; the competitions exist so that you can claim your wine has won awards to try and differentiate it from the winery down the road.  Steve’s point is that when EVERYONE wins awards they all become meaningless because everyone has them.

Talking again about the Millennial Wine Competition, I’m excited and really interested to see what comes out of it.  If the same wines that always win the awards win these as well then we can think about lumping this competition in with all the others.  However, maybe we’ll see something really different, a trend that may buck the status quo.  That would be very interesting and exciting not just as a Millennial but as a winemaker and as someone trying to sell wine to my generation.  I say lets see what happens before we start combining this competition with all the others…

To check out the competition in question go to

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