Should Millennials Be Drinking More Wine With Food? (Guest Post)

Vinted on February 19, 2013 binned in best of, commentary, guest posts

[ Editor’s note: following is a guest post from the 1WD intern: the young, unpaid Shelby Vittek, who many of you will recall really shook things up with her first 1WD article. You can check out more of Shelby’s work at, and find her on twitter at @BigBoldReds. Let us know what you think (but keep things civil, you opinionated b*stards!). Enjoy! ]

Just before the holiday break, Joe prompted me to run down to his cellar before lunch and pick out a bottle of wine for the meal that Mrs. Dudette had cooked up for us. It was an exciting moment – a free grab of any of the bottles I’ve been sorting through and cataloguing for months. (No, I didn’t choose a crazy expensive bottle, or touch any of his beloved aged Riesling collection – I know better than that by now.)

But the excitement of this new responsibility quickly turned into fear. I don’t often drink my wine with food and was worried my selection wouldn’t stand up well to the meal. What if the efforts to impress my “boss” ended in total failure, causing him to reconsider taking me on as his intern? And the last thing I wanted was to put Mrs. Dudette’s amazing cooking skills to shame.

Sometimes, my biggest flaw is this: I am a Millennial; and while we do have wine knowledge, we don’t know much about matching it with a meal. My generation, a hodgepodge of older students and young working professionals, marries wine more with occasions and events than they ever do with food. We drink it at parties, when we hang out at each other’s apartments, and in front of the television during date nights with Netflix. I even have a few friends that like to drink wine while writing a paper, which may or may not have once happened in the basement of our college library…

Without children or families to rush home to, we’re also more likely to visit more happy hours, where the focus is on the drinks themselves and food is an afterthought. Millennials go to wine bars more often than any older segment, but resist the idea of combining their love for wine with dinner. And because we are eating out at restaurants less than generations did at the same age, we don’t seem to be grasping the importance of wine’s relationship with food.

But it’s not just the Millennials that are depriving food of its long-time faithful companion. Everybody’s doing it. By now, most of us know that Americans are drinking less and less wine with meals. As reported in the Napa Valley Register back in 2011, Wine Opinions released the results of a survey that reported only 40% of wine is drunk with a meal, while the remaining 60% of it was consumed away from the table. But out of all the respondents that participated, the older ones reported drinking most of their wine with food, and each younger segment drinking more and more by itself.

Plenty of wine writers and bloggers have chimed in on the topic since then. Some were unsurprised by the results. Others could be heard chanting “long-live-food-and-wine-together” in sync. Even Joe himself said here on 1WD, “Wine still – and always will – RAWK IT when it comes to food.”

The results of this survey didn’t really strike me at first. But lately I’ve been wondering if Millennials’ have got it all wrong. Should we be caring more about drinking wine more with food? We like them both, so why don’t we combine the two more often?

While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a glass of wine by itself, I think young wine drinkers need to acquaint themselves with how great food and wine together can be. I’m not saying we need to become pairing experts – I know I’m nothing close to it, and frankly don’t want to be. Feel free to drink your wine with whatever you’d like. But if we love drinking a glass alone, there’s a good chance we’ll appreciate wine even more with a meal that can only heighten its greatness.

When I traveled through different wine regions in Europe this fall, I learned how powerful the union of food and wine is. I drank many glasses of Tempranillo (not all at once) in Spain before realizing the bold tannins that are characteristic of the wine taste and feel much better with some tapas dishes. In Valpolicella, food was absolutely essential to combat the massive power of Amarone. And in Piedmont, my tasty dinners wouldn’t have been complete without the memorable Barolos that accompanied them.

In the wine world, there’s this prevailing idea that Millennials will simply “grow out of it,” especially when it comes to how little we spend on a bottle. I don’t entirely agree, but maybe you guys are right about it when it comes to drinking more wine with meals. This is an area that could benefit from Millennials stepping outside of the I-know-it-all mindset once in awhile. We have enough exposure to a lot of decent wine that’s inexpensive, as well as plenty of magazines, newspapers, and blogs to tell us what food will make our wines taste even better. There are also some back-of-the-label suggestions to help even the laziest of wine drinkers.

The wine I chose for lunch that day turned out to taste better with our meal than it did alone. As it turns out, I did a well enough job to keep my job as Joe’s intern, which is a very good thing. With several hundred wine samples now catalogued to choose from, it seems I have a promising future of food and pairing opportunities. Maybe there’s hope for Millennials when it comes to this whole food-and-wine pairing thing after all…





  • nick

    i'm a "young professional" and just don't agree with much of what i just read. pretty silly to project your anecdotal experiences on an entire generation.

    • Mike

      Seconded. My girlfriend and I drink wine with dinner regularly. She makes dinner, I pick the wine. We are both under 26. So everyone else must do that too.

      My god, can we please stop posting emperical data devoid of methodology and analysis? These numbers are meaningless! The citations ultimately go back to the Wine Market Council's website, where it becomes clear this "research" is actually a proprietary report. This isn't science (not that it was claimed to be) or even evidence.

      • gabe

        yeah, i;m a millenial and I drink most of my wine at the dinner table

      • Mary

        "We are both under 26. So everyone else must do that too." Seriously, did you just say that? I'm also under 26. Sounds like you guys are the ones applying your anecdotal experiences on an entire generation.

        Stop generalizing an entire generation! [Insert here – my generalization on an entire generation!]

    • Joel


      I am confused. Do you disagree with her general premise that Millenials should not take a closer look at food and wine pairings because they already do? Or is it because you just disagree that she is perhaps making hasty generalizations based off of limited or erroneous information?

  • Whitney

    I think that we need to look at drinking wine with food (as a liquid substance washing down your dinner) vs. pairing wines with food to enhance the experience. I see a lot of my friends (who fall into the Millennial bracket) grabbing a bottle at the local grocery store to serve with a dinner that night but not recognizing the "palate potential" of selecting a bottle based on the food they are making.

    Shelby, I also agree that a lot of Millennials don't have children or families to rush home to and are not focused on the cooking experience right now. For young, single Millennials like me, it's hard to rationalize putting a lot of effort just cooking for one (and then finding that perfect wine to pair it with) vs. eating left-overs and focusing on the wine-of-the-night.

    Mike & Nick, y'all are both right that we can not generalize and categorize an entire generation. However, our main focus as an industry should be to continue to introduce and show this generation the opportunities for great wine and the benefits of pairing it with the appopriate meals. I think by doing this, more and more Millennials will be more thoughtful in their purchases and continue to increase in price and quality as they get older.

  • Tom Kruse

    Ha! Confirmation of my oft stated axiom. People are born naked and ignorant. The Mil. Gen. is no different. Their sensibilities having been kidnapped by the bombardment of stimuli for so long that there is no one thing that is more important than another. I believe that they will learn nothing and they will die clothed and ignorant.
    Simply stated wine is a good beverage to wash your food down with and it is the last seasoning your food gets. We all take a bite and then add a sip of wine before masticating and swallowing. Pleasurable if you can figure it out.

    • Joel


      I will not dignify my response or your absurd comment with any kind of explanation.

      • 1WineDude

        Hi all – thanks for the comments so far. I'm totally cool with challenging the premise and the research (I know that most if not all of you already know that I'm cool with that, but just in case! :-), let's just make sure we're keeping it civil (so far, I'd say that is the case… Just don't make me turn this blog around, kids!!!).

  • Joel


    I also am a Millennial wish a passion for wine and food pairing, although I am inclined to answer your query with a resounding YES. It seems people are disagreeing with you, but also implying they would answer your question in the title with a resounding yes as well. I believe the point of wine and food pairing is to enhance both the wine and the food simultaneously, or at the very least learn a thing or two about how to pair the two together. When it comes down to it our generation is, well, impatient. Instant gratification is rampant, and although I abhorrently disagree with my friend Toms statement over stimulation may be a factor in this impatience (that is all your going to get Tom). It is difficult to cull an interest in serious wine and food pairing out of all the hobbies our generation sifts through in a given year (or month depending on one's attention span). If one has a serious interest in food before they discover wine; and lack that AH-HA moment when they find a pairing that is truly divine, then perhaps the seed will never sprout to begin with. I think it is a shame that more people, regardless of age, do nothing to further their exploration into food and wine pairings. Obviously the most important part is people enjoy their experience, and perhaps there lies the issue. As far as I have noticed (and I do not have any hard evidence to back this up, besides countless hours in restaurants, tasting rooms, parties and 5 years in the wine industry; so deal with it) our generation does not seem to seek out food and wine pairings. Out of every 100 Millennials that come into the tasting room I have never heard anyone mentioning anything about food paring. Furthermore, in my years of food service experience I do not recall anyone my age caring about pairing their wine with food; they order what they want regardless of what they are having. This seems to be the case at parties as well, if they serve wine it is never with food. Considering all this, I would say my personal experience mirrors yours as well. And I also (obviously) agree with your general preface.

    • @bigboldreds

      Thanks for your response, Joel. I'm not too keen on discovering the most perfect, intimate wine and food pairings that exist. Too much work for me. The premise of this post was really to encourage wine drinkers (of all ages!) to marry their glasses of wine with food — any food, really — more often. I've learned myself that each taste better when they're consumed together.

      • Joel

        I understand your lack of desire to find the perfect pairing, I just try and find pairings that work. I have had amazing pairings before, but am not sure that I could even hope to attain anything approaching perfection. Once again, I TOTALLY agree with your suggestion of trying to coax people into trying wine and food pairings. I think drinking wine with a meal, and actually pairing wine based off of the food (or better yet making food based off the wine, like Tony Laurence, one of Joe's friends and a friend of the winery I work for) are two different things. Regardless, people of our generation DO need to experiment more with food pairings; I think they would be pleasantly surprised.

        • 1WineDude

          Joel – major +1 for the Tony mention! :-)

  • Les Hubbard

    Okay, time for the OFW (old fart wino) to chime in based on my own experience and now selling wines to Millennials. I was properly introduced to the pleasures of drinking wines with food when in my late 20's. I was taught that it was fun trying to find a wine that you would enjoy that also might pair resonably well with the food you were consuming, not necessary a perfect match. I've also found most Millennials to be open to experimenting (with new wines they may not have yet tried, etc.), although most I meet do at least occasionally cook at home. To me food and wine go together , well, like a horse and carriage and, hence, enjoy splitting a bottle with my wife at almost every home dinner. Regardless, I found Shelby's post intelligent, despite the complained about lack of empirical evidence – she makes a good case for at least trying it.

    Now a question for Joe: How does Mrs. Duddette feel about having such a bright and beuatiful young intern wondering about the house, ah, the temptation. :-)

    The OFW, Les

    • 1WineDude

      Les – thanks. I might be a bit shy of OF status (getting there!) but I share that love of experimenting with wine and food. As for having Shelby around, Mrs. Dudette loves it, as does our Dudettelette, who hardly leaves Shelby alone for more than five minutes at a time. Mrs. Dudette happens to be a beautiful woman herself, so the only real temptation in the whole internship scenario is probably the occasional thought crossing Shelby's mind that I might not miss a sample or two of pricey wines from the basement when she's down there cataloging everything! :-)

      • Les Hubbard

        Joe, Indeed from the photos you've posted you have a beautiful daughter. That "temptation" was a double entendre meaning the obvious but also the temptation on Shelby's part to grab one of those pricey bottles. And I'll confirm the next posting that I'm a LOM, although my wife puts it differently when calling me just a plain "dirty old man," which I guess qualifes me as a DOM. Shelby: glad you cleared up the food and wine pairing you selected as I was also curious.

    • Mary

      OFW? More like LOM (Lecherous Old Man)

  • Mark

    I'm an older Millennial (almost 30) and I can only speak about my group of friends. There is quite a divide between the wine obsessed friends and the non-wine friends. The non-wine friends will drink wine but it tends to be predominantly during a wine party and they will pick up a bottle of Pinot Grigio, they definitely would not go out of their way to have wine accompanying a meal but are not opposed to it. The wine obsessed group tends to have a lot of our gatherings based on wine and a huge part of the appeal is finding wines that compliment the meal. Half the fun is finding a nice pairing like Montlouis and fried oysters. The more exposure my non-wine friends have to wine the more confident they get and will purchase new wines for parties.

  • Nate

    All this talk about what wine to choose for the meal, and we never found out what Mrs. Dudette made for lunch. I am interested to know how the pairing turned out.

    • Nate

      Shelby – I'd also like to know your thought process in your selection and why you picked it.

      • @bigboldreds

        If I remember correctly (Joe, correct me if I'm wrong!), it was a simple, but delicious beef stew. The bottle I chose to taste was the 2009 Gundlach Bundschu Mountain Cuvee. There was really no rhyme or reason behind my decision. I had recently cataloged the wine and remembered it having an interesting blend and was curious as to how it would taste with a meal. I also felt too guilty selecting a pricier bottle!!

        • Joel

          I would think that would be a very good choice. I love most of Gundlach Bundschu's stuff! I was there a few weeks ago and tried all their offerings and a few they brought out for us, and there was not a bad wine in the bunch.

  • Thomas Pellechia

    As a boomer and wine industry veteran, all I can say is that with generations, not much seems to change–even the angst is the same. I also know that no matter how many times we reinvent the wheel, someone will claim to have a better reinvention.

    Still, I don't remember such fear of imperfection among my friends when we were in our 20s. Is that a good thing? I don't know.

    • 1WineDude

      Thomas – I think that the generalizations can only go so far, and we need to be careful that we take into account the genuine differences between generations. Yes, history and human nature repeat themselves, but aren't there real differences in how Boomers reacted to some aspects of their world compared with their parents? The generation that protested the Vietnam war and gave us flower power certainly interpreted some things differently, so why not millennials…

      • Thomas Pellechia


        What you speak of is based on environmental factors. The one constant, however, is that the young think they know all the answers and the old think that tradition is the answer. That's why so many times today's innovation becomes tomorrow's disappointment.

        • 1WineDude

          Thomas – yes but that surely doesn’t invalidate the reactions or their worldview?

  • Laura

    As a millenial, wine lover, food lover, etc. I've got to say I think part of the problem is still the perception that food and wine pairings are always 'fancy,' 'right,' 'wrong,' or 'perfect.' For wine to be appreciated with food more widely (especially in the US) we have to start making it an everyday–with the likes of convenience foods (ahem hot pockets) as well as filet mignon. And always remember that alleged "mistakes" with pairing can be the best teachers. DARE TO PAIR.

    • @bigboldreds

      Dare to pair…I like that. You're right — part of the problem is still the perception that pairings are always fancy, right, wrong, or perfect. My main goal and premise was to encourage more millennials to marry food and wine together, rather than consuming them separately on their own. Let me know when you figure out a perfect hot pocket wine…or even one to drink with ramen!

      • MyrddinGwin

        Though this is just my own opinion, I've had a late harvest Riesling go really well with a spicy ramen pack before. As well, an easy-drinking Sangiovese might go pretty well with a pizza pocket. The most interesting pairing I've had, though, between a cheap food and a wine was a Prosecco with Kraft Dinner. It went surprisingly well.

        • 1WineDude

          MG, I’d take Riesling with just about anything :-)

        • @bigboldreds

          I love late harvest riesling and gewurztraminer with spicy thai food — they work magically together. And this fall, I traveled to Valdobbiadene (where prosecco is made) and enjoyed it very much with potato chips during aperitvo hour

  • Warren

    Well I have to say this a very provincial way of viewing wine consumption. This could be read as an open letter as to why students should study abroad. I understand that American culture has not put an emphasis on wine at the table. I will also concur that looking for the "perfect" pairing obscures many younger people trying to pair wine with food. I partially blame the rise of this hyperbolic sommelier culture. I can see the argument that mass-produced, homogenous, science-made wines DO NOT lend themselves to being food wines but DO perfectly fine as "cocktail wines." What I really blame is a growing disconnect between agricultural products and their consumers. Throughout history, wine has been consumed closest to where it is produced. I highly doubt this has changed even as more and more consumers prefer wine. I had to bite my tongue when Shelby posted her first piece about "affordable" wine. Why should a Portuguese, Chilean or really any region in the world cost less than $10 in America? Do you understand the cost associated with wine production, particularly those that are sustainable? I can understand that you might want or even expect being able to go on your own accord to a winery within x distance from your home that you found out about on your own (no marketing) with your own bottle(s) and fill up directly from the spigot for $10/ bottle maybe even less! Otherwise, do we really want wine producers to up their yields per hectare to gain more profit so they can ship their plonk halfway across the world to be consumed for $10? Do we really want them to pay their employees the bare minimum and as such get less skilled laborers? I am consistently blown away by what consumers are willing to pay for certain mass-manufactured items (say a designer handbag made in China) versus an artisan product such as real wine made by an intelligent farmer on their own property using only the most necessary of interventions. With that said, one can buy organic, hand harvested wines from such regions as the Loire for very fair prices that ACTUALLY support the farmer. Oh and they are delicious and go with just about any type of meal one could envision.

    • 1WineDude

      Warren – thanks for the comment. Respectfully, I’d ask you to consider that you may have misread these posts by Shelby, our at least the intentions and themes behind them. The previous guest post was more of a plea to the wine Biz to understand that Shelby’s generation, to a large extent, is both wine savvy and cash poor. That means they’ll seek out interesting wines at low points, and no amount of marketing about terroir is going to magically enable them to be able to afford the type of wine that you’re describing. If the Biz wants their dollars, then, they’ll have to push higher quality at lower price points. That’s not ready to do, but Shelby’s just delivering a message that needs to be delivered in that case. On this most recent post, she’s only saying that her generation, based on her own experience and on data that she’s cited, don’t – in general – think about wines in terms of food pairing. They drink them socially, a result of several factors (1 of which you’ve hit on in your comment); she’s also saying that this is probably to the detriment of both their enjoyment and appreciation of fine wine. And I agree with her.

      • Warren

        Well I guess the misreading is mutual. My main point is the cognitive disconnect between my generation (Millennial) and our food-ways. Referring to the distribution and sale of a wide variety of wine with many different production styles as the "Biz," is respectfully, ignorant. It also beautifully represents my point about this disconnect regarding agricultural products and their distribution. There are many channels of wine distribution and while you maybe like to support big "Biz." I buy from grower-producers who are represented by like-minded, impassioned importers.

        Finally, explain what you mean when you say:
        "Shelby's [ Also, why the backslash and hyphen? ] generation, to a large extent, is both wine savvy and cash poor. That means they'll seek out interesting wines at low points, and no amount of marketing about terroir is going to magically enable them to be able to afford the type of wine that you're describing"

        Did I not mention that a "savvy" consumer can find vigernon produced wines that are manually harvest, organic and/or biodynamic certified and show terroir for under $15? Does this not show the disconnect that my generation has for agricultural products, particularly if these options actually exist? I guess maybe I am pointing at the big problem in what is basically a fluff piece. Tonight, I will be enjoying a $10 certified organic, hand harvested Muscadet that shows its sandy soil beautifully via its intense, laser focused but abundant fruit. Cheers!!

        • 1WineDude

          Warren – respect what you're saying (except for the fluff comment), but in terms of finding the types of wines that I think you're describing, those options will likely not be the majority available to young consumers in the U.S. you're probably correct in that many could user them but don't know about them. If you happen to live in a large city and/or in a state with favourable wine laws regarding shipping, great. Otherwise, good luck, you've got an uphill battle on your hands even if you know those channels exist.  In Shelby's example, if the PLCB in her home state doesn't carry that wine, she might have some options to have it shipped to her, but they'd all significantly increase the bottle price before it reached her hands.  The point there is that a paucity of legal options is not necessarily equal to ignorance, nor is it necessarily the same as a cognitive disconnect. As for the slashes, it's only a formatting issue in how those characters are being grabbed by the server did my website, I'm traveling so unable to clean those up (apologies for any confusion caused by those). Cheers.

    • @bigboldreds

      Warren — I hear where you're coming from. I'd love to buy organic, hand harvested wines from regions like the Loire….if I could get my hands on them. And I know I'm not alone. Not everybody has the access to wines you are assuming. Here in Pennsylvania we have a limited selection of wines available, and shipping isn't always an option, either. My previous post was not intended to bash any wine over $10. Instead, I was making the point that a higher price range is still out of reach for young millennials, just like marrying food and wine together isn't a highly adventured area for some of us either.

      • Warren

        You realize that Weygandt-Metzler, PA based wine importer, does a LOT of business with PLCB? All grower producers, all sustainable and many under $20 or $15. Domaine Aphillanthes has atleast three wines that would be under $15 that are certified organic, practicing biodynamic, hand harvested and horse tilled. Just ask your local shop, I am sure they would gladly point you in the right direction.

  • Thoams Pellechia

    Thank you, Warren, for a breath of fresh reality. You didn't say it, but you obviously recognize what the power of marketing does to the level of quality and savvy in the consumption world, not to mention knowledge.

  • Paul

    Firstly I don't think I am a millenial, mainly because I'm not even sure what the term means, but I can remember back to my slightly younger days. I was fortunate to work in a vineyard restaurant while I was getting interested in wine, so I learned a lot about food and wine pairing there. I think that drinking habits of younger people tend to be different but as you get older the patten changes. I think this is partially becasue people become more time poor as they get older, so your social time tends to also be your meal times, So I think that it is more that you are pushed into a different social pattern, rather that making a concious change. That's how it has been for me at least.
    Having said that ,is that there is some wine that I don't want food anywhere near when I'm drinking it. Not because food wouldn't go with it, but because food would jsue end up masking nuances and/or complexity of th e wines. Old fortifieds are a good example here, but I'd also add delicate whites and some champagnes to this

  • MyrddinGwin

    One thing I know I'd love to see in wineries would be little sandwich vending machines. Buying a half a sandwich for $1 and tasting it with the wines at a winery could be really, really tasty, and possibly inspire passion for wine and food pairing. I have no idea how the health codes in this area would respond to that, however.

  • @girlwithaglass

    Shelby, what a wonderfully authentic voice you have! You can't leave Joe's blog. Joe, I want her to be a regularly scheduled guest blogger on 1WineDude or I'm stealing her. And Shelby, I live 20 minutes from great wineries in Napa and Sonoma counties. My interest is global wines too so go to my blog for my CA wine country picks and tips. Then come visit, I'll show you the good stuff.

  • @girlwithaglass

    Hey Joe, my computer crashed and when my comment above posted it's on the wrong Shelby post! Moving it now. Delete it from here if you get a minute.

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