Why young people don’t drink wine

By Joan Gómez Pallarès

According to the WHO, youth goes from 20 to 24 years old, yet WHO wise man not have into account the sociological part that this definition should include:, at what point social youngness comes to a complete stop in our world -occidental and more or less technologicaly advanced-? Youth is a biological process that does not have anything to do with age, but also with each person’s life conditions and state of mental maturity: what you decide in your life and in what factors you do this. In this sense, youth is a  physical and ageing state but also a mental state, and can be defined like a space full of good flexibility doses, full of huge seductive capacity (among them and towards them) and a big information and full of a big training and information volunty. Young people are flexible, seducers, they let theirselves be seduced and they like information and training. An age, therefore, which is not clearly identified, but which is a key to discover and strenghten likes, preferences and habits.

It is true that there can be 37 years-old young people and 24 years-old old people. I welcome the last definition to talk, nowadays, about young people who are able to decide what do they want to drink when party. I don’t care where they sleep when they go back home (in which house? This would be another question…), and, even, I don’t care about their working or social conditions. I want to talk about the young people who go out in a well-known city (let’s say Barcelona, but there are lots and lots of cities like that…) with a group of friends, and has a small amount of money to spend on fun and they ask themselves: what do I do? I am also interested in the previous question, the one that most of them don’t ask themselves because the majority of them already assume: what don’t I do? And the vast majority don’t drink wine. Why don’t young people who would have the legal, mental and economic capacity to decide “Do I want to drink a glass of wine with friends?” drink wine?

I warn you that the order of reasons is not hierarchic and they can be mixed as you want. The final result will be the same and the conclusions, too. What we have to do is simply the opposite of what I am going to describe now. And if we do everything, in a more or less conscious and coordinated manner, we will end up where many of us would like to get to: seeing how young, both at home and when they leave, drink more wine and appreciate its representing values.

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They don’t’ drink wine because they are not well informed. If they would really follow the latest fashion trends, even if it only was for that, they would already know that what is rabidly cool nowadays in United States clubs is walking there and dancing with a glace of good wine in hand. Staining clothes with wine and going to bed with its perfum, whoever and whatever, it’s already the biggest sophistication.

Closely related to the previous reasons, they don’t drink wine because there are not places which encourage them to do that. In general they are places who smell like if they were expensive, elitist and look like if they had certain snobbery. In the cities where I have seen open and accessible places; where I have seen moderate prices of portions or tapas to accompany wine; where environment and decoration invite to go in without being scared of running out of money, there are groups of young people drinking wine. We associate wine to a certain luxury, to a certain selection of people, and we are wrong. Nor I am not talking strictly about the “tavern” concept: I am talking about the open space idea, where people can talk, where people can listen to music and where people can eat and drink wines by the glass. Wine is happiness, is for sharing, is a mixture of chairs and tables, is life and dialogue and all these belongs to our cultural DNA. And this has not changed! If they were more places like these, young people would drink more wine.

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They don’t drink wine because of the price. When we tie low price to a low quality of wine, we are much mistaken. All the people who work in the wine industry know that we can make good wines, bottle them in an economic way and offer them at affordable prices. I have checked that many times with the young people in my family. There is not one who has denied a good wine at a low price, and now they have these wines at home!

They don’t drink wine because it has disappeared in the majority of the household tables. We don’t have lunch together at home, we rarely have dinner together, and the youngest couldn’t see (nor drink) what the oldest ones do. They considered wine as food, and every day, in every meal, they would drink a couple of glasses of wine. The “French paradox” exists for a reason…

Finally, they don’t drink wine because their palates (so they say!) are not made for all tastes. But if they like any type of fermentation and bubble (and I am not talking now about juice changed into wine…), because it is cheap and fresh, because it encourages to a happy and sharing life, why shouldn’t they do the same with any other unexpensive and fresh fermentation type, made thinking of a concrete type of palate? The idea that any type of palate, even the palate of a young person, is ready to drink any type of wine is false. Each person goes through an evolution of the things he likes, so they don’t always like wine. My children (young people!) have smelled very interesting and different wines during their life and now they start to drink them. They reject, in an instintive way, a profile of wines that is more suitable for middle-age people. I am sorry but this is not like that; if we produce wine which is made for a palate which is in formation and which wants to know new things, we will be right. There is not a type of wine with this profile. I have been talking about this with many people and there is not a unique answer.

Let’s invert the concept: do not talk about which wine that you like you want to do, but let’s talk about which wine do you want to do for a particular segment of the population, in this case, for the young. Bubbles -are they ancestral or from a seconf fermentation- are they a good answer for sure. Still wines with carbonic maceration or half carbonic maceration are also a good answer. Wines with light extractions and few –or measured or none- wood are also a good answer. Wines that people can identify with a particular land and a particular type of grape are also a good answer. Etc., etc., etc.,: Moreover, combinations between factors are many! And the only challenge of the ones that produce and sell is their imagination and their capacity of adaptation to the youngest.

I don’t have any doubts: if the young that goes out partying sees more atractive and friendly places, and finds inside small food portions at good prices to accompany wines –also affordable and more suitable for their palate, with a exigible quality-, every time there will be more young people interested in wine and will drink it.

Joan Gómez Pallarès
Professor of Latin Philology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and director of the Catalan Institute of Classical Archaeology. He has published over 200 references (books and articles) about the ancient world. He is a food and wine enthusiast and shares his impressions on his blog www.devinis.org and Sentits magazine. Recently he has published the book Vinos naturales en España. Placer auténtico y agricultura sostenible en tu copa (RBA, 2013).

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