Be Careful What You Ask For – Millennials Respond

Be Careful What You Ask For – Millennials Respond

This is the second in a two-part series that considers the role and status of the millennial demographic in the future of the wine business. You can read Part I here: “Millennials We Need You”

Millennials are coming to the industry as the most globally aware, instantly connected and digitally based generation we have seen, where at every moment information is collated, curated, and delivered creating a 24/7 feedback cycle. It may be a tough generation to coach and lead, but the flip side (and the upside!) is that it can also be the most powerful generation for creative input, data-based decisions and shaping leadership.

The previous post struck a nerve, and I wanted to share some responses that came as emails, social posts and personal conversations  So this week we share the top challenges and opportunities we heard: 

Challenge 1 - It’s Hard to Make a Living Wage

“Living anywhere close to a world-class wine region, is almost unfathomable for a young tasting room employee.”

World-class wine regions attract millions in wine tourism spend, but for new entrants, the high cost of living, coupled with long commutes and limited access to affordable housing, can make it nigh impossible to earn a living wage, particularly in prestigious wine regions.


Challenge 2 - Competing Industries and Cultures

“Wine is an incredibly traditional industry and can be seen by some as stuffy or old fashioned. I think the wine industry needs to revolutionize the workplace culture into something more inclusive, fresh, and modern that mirrors competing industries.” -- Sydnie Hamby, who grew up in the Central Valley of California and now works with Folio Fine Wine Partners.

Marketing, sales and promotional roles in technology and associated service industries are often financially more lucrative than wine, but flexible working hours, locations, and workplace benefits can lure ambitious career seekers who are looking to establish themselves.


Challenge 3 - Knowledge Demands For Wine AND Business:

The need to learn about the technical aspects of wine in addition to the business is not unique to wine but Armando Maria Corso, Associate Professor at the University of South Australia believes that millennials may be deterred by the demands that exist. Here’s what he shared:

“It's not enough to be a business manager. It's not enough to be a wine lover. If we want this industry to grow we need to work on both of these pillars, so we can have professionals from other industries to join wine and have professionals who are able to move from the wine industry to other industries if they want to.”


Despite the big challenges, there’s plenty of opportunity to be found on the road ahead:

Opportunity 1 - Let Us Challenge the System

At WineSociety, co-founder and CEO Angela Allison sees a leading edge that millennials have in how they do business. “Millennials are a generation ingrained with technological skills who expect efficiency. Luckily perseverance and confidence are built into the millennial mentality so I think it’s important to let the next generation know that choosing a start-up in the wine world is no different than any other industry. If you have the hustle, the drive and aren’t afraid to ask questions, you will go far!”


Opportunity 2 - Let’s Use Data!

Mikael Tigrett, Director of Client Services for Accendo Cellars in Napa Valley sees great opportunity for an industry slow to adapt to data-based decisions: “When a ‘hot shot’ millennial comes in talking about implementing CRM’s and dissecting data to create algorithms to understand buying habits, [winery owners] can shut down. Finding brands that are willing to step into the next evolution of technology and data in wine can provide a huge upside if you can be the one to implement it.” 


Opportunity 3 - Be A Mentor, Not A Boss

Gabriel Ramirez, an account coordinator for Colangelo and Partners, thrives on hands-on learning and looks for more than the WHAT. Instead, he thrives on the HOW. “I want to feel like I'm learning from my bosses, not just checking off to-do lists. Share your knowledge with me. Take me along to a tasting and show me how you network. Introduce me to your contacts. Let me watch so I can learn.”

On that note, since the last ABG post, Professor Damien Wilson has recruited a small group of business leaders to work ongoing with Sonoma State wine business students to build longer-term relationships. Time will tell.


Opportunity 4 - More Voices on Industry Panels

Respondents shared a desire to see “more people like me” in high-visibility roles. From speaker opportunities to research focus groups, working teams and networking opportunities, the desire to see more similar-aged faces and roles is an opportunity that can be easily harnessed.  Juliana Colangelo of Colangelo and Partners shared: “I want to learn how the 3-tier system really works, how to lead and manage others, how to deal with the ‘tricky’ topics like coworkers / managers working together when alcohol is involved.”

This falls on the organizational leaders to share more information, answer more questions and look at who is in the room when it comes to meetings and team collaboration.

In summary, there’s no “quick fix” for bringing younger people to the industry, but discussing the challenges and opportunities is a great start. So let’s keep an open dialogue going and develop strong and direct working relationships across generations and demographics so we can continue to build a successful and healthy industry.

I’m in. Are you?


Meet The Tribe:

Our community is only as strong as the company we keep, and here we meet some of the folks who make our profession so dynamic. 


Kevin Gagnon WA

Freelance Writer, Educator And Consultant – And Lyric Baritone (Germany). 

Years In Industry:

I started to focus on wine in 2007, several years after I had moved to Europe to pursue my career in classical music. By 2009 I had really started to geek out on wine while singing at the Opera Festival at Aix-En-Provence.  By 2011 I was running tastings and courses on wine, and in 2015 started the Weinakademiker program at the Weinakademie in Rust, Austria, graduating with the WSET Diploma and becoming the first Canadian Weinakademiker in 2016.  

My Biggest Challenge To Wellness:

My own difficulties prioritizing the things that are most important for myself, instead of what is important for other people. I have a little boy, an active singing career and a busy schedule of wine travel and writing, all of which means very little sleep and too little time for exercise, free reading and getting away from work. Wellness triage is critical and time with my son is the most important part of my day.

How I Keep It Together To Stay Well:

I love to cook, and I cook every day when I am home. I make nearly everything from scratch, which I enjoy very much. Huge portions of fresh vegetables, whole grains and occasional, locally-sourced meat.

I try to exercise at least four times a week, and follow a rigorous strength-training program that uses resistance and your own body weight as its only equipment, which means I can do it while travelling, regardless of weather or hotel gyms.

When I am travelling, I get out and see where I am. I walk as much as possible, see the “old stones” of the historic places I am lucky enough to visit, and take wine to the countryside. It is a joy that I sometimes share with others, but most often, and more importantly, do alone. It charges my batteries when I am feeling the most run-down.

You can follow Kevin on Instagram, Facebook  or his website

What We’re Reading:

There's no shortage of wine stories and media inundating our IN Boxes. Here's what has piqued our interest this week.

Hanxiety – Why Alcohol Gives You A Hangover and Anxiety – The Guardian

A few drinks can relax you – but, says scientist David Nutt, that morning-after feeling is the booze playing tricks with your brain

If Stressful Times Are Coming, What Can You Do? -

A new study investigates the best well-being practice for stress.

Let's Meet Up!                                             

As work life has it, we are traveling over the next few months and would love to see you.   

·       Panel Moderator at Woman-Owned-Wineries Dinner in Sonoma, Feb 12 (Rebecca)

·       TEXSOM International Wine Awards in Dallas, Feb 18 to 20 (Cathy)

·       Presenter at Wonder Women of Wine in Austin, March 2 and 3 (Cathy)

·       Presenter at the British Columbia Wine Insight Conference, March 12 (Cathy)

·       Presenter at the International Institute for Analytics conference in Portland, March 13 (Cathy)

·       Speaker at Women in Wine - The Bâtonnage Discussion Series, in Oakland, March 17 (Rebecca)

·       Attendee at ProWein in Düsseldorf, March 17 to 19 (Cathy)

·       Guest Lecturer at the University of Bologna, April 2 to 4 (Cathy)

·       Attendees at Vinitaly in Verona, April 7 – 10 (Rebecca and Cathy)

·       Presenter at the London Wine Fair, May 20 to 22 (Cathy)

·       Attendee at MUST: Fermenting Ideas in Cascais, Portugal, June 26 to 28 (Cathy) 

·       Attendee at Fine Minds 4 Fine Wines in Bordeaux, July 4 to 6 (Cathy)

Drop a line to or if you are interested in getting together for practice, a chat or a great glass together.

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