Millennials changing the wine industry

Posted at 7:04 PM, Feb 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-18 20:57:36-05

The Millennial generation is becoming the nation's newest group of wine connoisseurs as they consume more wine than any previous generation when they were 21-years-old.

That influence is also being felt along the Chautauqua County Wine Trail with its 12 wineries. "They are ready to explore new things," said Kris Kane, co-owner of the 21 Brix Winery in Portland, N.Y.

According to Kane, the younger generation of wine drinkers are looking for new flavors and less traditional offerings while drinking their wine in more cafe-like settings.

The Millennial trend is also helping boost the wine business in Chautauqua County where the demand continues to rise for locally produced wine.

However, growing wine grapes faces challenges from Mother Nature. Last year, hundreds of acres of Chautauqua County wine grapevines were destroyed due to extreme cold weather. This year, those damaged areas are expected to yield only a partial crop.

"They should be able to produce anywhere from a third to a half of a full crop this season," said Luke Haggerty, from the Cornell Cooperative Extension Lake Erie Grape Program.

Haggerty said those vines should be back to full production in 2017.

The mild winter this season is giving grape growers a break, while areas in the Finger Lakes wine region saw more vine damage.

But local growers are still keeping a close eye on the forecast and hoping things don't warm up too quickly.

"Overall, we are kind of happy with the ice on Lake Erie building up because that extends that Spring season a little longer so the buds don't want to push quite so early," said Gary Burmaster, owner of Liberty Vineyards in Sheridan, N.Y.