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Millennials top U.S. in wine consumption

There's no shortage of scorn heaped upon millennials for their perceived sense of entitlement, laissez faire attitude toward work and obsession with technology. Now add this: They like to booze it up.

Millennials -- in general, people born between the early 1980s and early 2000s -- last year consumed 159.6 million cases, or 42 percent, of all the wine sold in the U.S., surpassing baby boomers and Generation X, according to a recent survey by the Wine Market Council.

Research also showed that younger drinkers are thirstier than older oenophiles, drinking an average 3.1 glasses, compared to 2.4 for Gen Xers and 1.9 for boomers. Women especially seem to have a taste for the fruit of the vine. Among frequent consumers of wine, two-thirds of those under 30 were women, though consumption among millennials in their 30s was evenly split among the sexes.

Millennials are also more eager to try wines from all over the world, from places as varied as Greece, Oregon, South Africa and New Zealand, though France, Italy and Australia were the most popular destination among those who drink wine frequently.

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Millennials' tastes are similarly all over the map when it comes to wine varietals. Malbec and Moscato were early favorites, but their sales have largely plateaued, Wine Spectator reports. Meanwhile, sales of Pinot Noit and Sauvignon Blanc have seen significant gains and become the choice among high-dollar drinkers. And rosé, which was all the rage in the 1970s, is experiencing a resurgence thanks to millennials, primed by the availability of dryer, affordable options, rather than the plonk that passed for rosé in decades past.

What's more, millennials are now more willing (and able) to spend more on the bottle of their choice. WMC's survey found that 17 percent of all millennial wine drinkers bought a bottle costing more than $20 in the past month, compared to 10 percent of all drinkers and 5 percent of boomers. The average price for a bottle of wine was $7.81 last year, compared to $6.31 in 2011, according to Nielsen.

Millennials' thirst for wine is expanding where it can be found for purchase, including bookstores, cinemas and carwashes. Seeking to cash in, Starbucks (SBUX) last summer announced plans to expand its "Starbucks Evenings" program, which features several varieties of wine along with appetizers, or "small plates," to about 2,000 of its 12,000 U.S. locations.

And of course, millennials wouldn't be millennials if they're weren't somehow engaging others through social media and sharing their experiences. Of millennials who drink wine, Wine Spectator noted that more than half of them talk about it on Facebook, while more than a third use YouTube, Twitter and Instagram to share their wine experiences.

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