The days of customers ordering “the house white” or “the house red” are dwindling.

Wine drinkers now want to know why they hate Chardonnay but love a good Sauvignon Blanc.

Wine lovers are looking to take classes, go to events, and have unique  experiences while drinking their wine to understand why they like what they like. Wine event attendance numbers are up, and brands should consider creating their own events to get customers interested in their wines.

“Educational courses, events, and experiences are more in demand than ever as people want to know more about what they’re drinking. They want to understand their personal taste – why they love (or hate) particular wines and spirits, and they also want to go beyond the bottle to discover the story behind what they are drinking” Barbara Drew MW, Wine & Spirits Education Specialist told Country & Townhouse.

Party of wine

Events such as the millennial-targeted Wine Riot are blowing up Instagram and drawing thousands of new wine drinkers to large events.

Wine Riot is a touring wine event that aims to “infuse new life into an event that has continued to introduce new wines to a growing Millennial audience.”

Wine Riot joined the global event company IWSC Group’s portfolio in 2016 and has been growing ever since. The event has been operating for nearly eight years and tours five U.S. cities, drawing approximately 3,000 people per event. It’s already hosted more than 48 events since 2009 and draws an audience that typically ranges in age from 24 to 34 years old.

The events feature more than 48 exhibitors that offer tastings to millennials who Instagram their way through the day. During their events, Wine Riot offers classes, such as Wine 101 or sit-downs with sommeliers, so millennials can better understand what they’re drinking.

Of course, the event is also extremely pleasing to Instagram-obsessed crowd, offering bright-colored decorations, photo-props, and glass decorating stations.

Will travel for wine

Wine lovers are also choosing their vacations based on the wine they like to drink, hoping to learn more about their favorite variety during their trip.

Enotourism, which is travel aimed at wine regions, has been booming for nearly a decade now and is continuing to rise. Consumers want to tour the facilities, learn how the wine is made, and understand what they’re drinking.

Wine in the (actual) classroom

For millennials, learning about wine is going beyond social events and spilling into the classroom.

Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) reported a record 85,487 candidates globally that completed some wine and spirits classes in 2017. That’s an increase of 19% from the prior year. These candidates are seeking to work in the wine and spirits, or restaurant industries.

WSET ranked the United States third on its list of top countries for wine and spirits education, with 48% growth in the sector from the 2015-2016 to the 2016- 2017 school year.

“I am delighted to see that more and more businesses are recognizing that education and well-trained staff are the foundations to better customer service and stronger profits,” Ian Harris, WSET Chief Executive, said in a statement.

Even students not pursuing a career in the industry are still looking to learn more about wine and spirits for their own taste buds or to impress in social circles.

Syracuse University in Upstate New York even offers a “Beer and Wine Appreciation Class”.

The class says it teaches students the ingredients, processes, and laws behind the industry. It also helps teach “sensory evaluation and discussion of still and sparkling wines and beers.” Of course, it is only offered to students who are at least 21 years of age. For what it’s worth, Syracuse was named the 2019 No.1 party school in America by the Princeton Review.

What brands can do to capitalize on the thirst for knowledge

Consumers wanting to know more about their wine can be a great opportunity for brands, distributors, and wineries to increase sales and grow their customer bases.

For distributors, pairing with restaurants to run on site-education events, or having a representative walk around during a busy dinner period can help regular customers learn more about your wines and increase their desire to order them again.

For wineries, training your tasting room staff or having materials on hand to give customers can help increase their awareness and familiarity with your brand, and satisfy their desire for more knowledge.

Meredith Galante

Meredith Galante is a freelance writer based in New York City. She has been published in USA Today, amNewYork, Newsday, Square and more. She's interviewed then-Mayor Cory Booker, Ryan Seacrest, and other New Jersey folks who made their community better. She's covered breaking news, sports, features, and now frequently writes about small businesses.