There never has been a better time to be a wine enthusiast, with more tasty juice coming from more places than ever before. As a result, we can boldly go where we have never gone before — to Uruguay or France's Madiran for a lusty tannat; to Switzerland or Italy's Alto Adige for a refreshing kerner; to South Africa for a delicious rendition of the grape formerly known as steen (chenin blanc), or to California for the red blends that continue to soar in popularity.

Clearly, these are not your father's Buicks, or his buying habits. Instead, as Thomas Liquors wine buyer Peter Vars notes, it is "very rewarding to be a wine consumer with curiosity right now."

That's the main reason why we shoppers are decidedly less prone to home in on a scant few grapes or regions. Twenty years ago, consumers were almost laser-focused on varietals (wines with the dominant or only grape variety on the label), consistently asking for a chardonnay or merlot. Now customers young and old "are a lot less set on a varietal vs. quality," said Rodney Brown, manager of the Ridgedale Lunds & Byerlys wine shop. "They're more open to new things to try."

Also, as Vars points out, "buyers in this market are bored with the highly marketed areas and wine styles" and are looking for "wine styles that are new and fresh to the palate." That leads them, he said, to regions such as Italy's tiny Valle d'Aosta, Croatia, Slovenia or France's Jura.

But the game-changer, beginning around the turn of the century, was a much larger region: Spain.

"With Spain, we got flooded with that tidal wave of good, cheap wine," said Kowalski's wine manager, Brian Mallie. "Suddenly people weren't asking for tempranillo from Rioja or garnacha from Priorat, but 'where are your Spanish wines?' I think that changed a lot of minds."

Another huge factor has been the coming of (drinking) age of the millennial generation. For starters, they are "more driven by blends," Mallie said. "We couldn't sell red blends to their mothers and fathers in 1994 to save our lives." Other factors differentiating this generation from their predecessors:

Economics: "There's a whole generation growing up without trying Bordeaux and Burgundy," Mallie said, citing two regions that have gotten seriously spendy. "Back in the day when buying wine was such a crapshoot, you could rely on Bordeaux for quality. Now the overall consistency, the quality is good from all over."

Craft beer: "The craft-beer people are loyal to nothing," Brown said. "They move from one thing to the next so fast it makes your head spin" and often approach wine buying the same way.

Social media: "You do see more people pulling out their phone and looking up wines," Mallie said.

The foodie movement: "This younger group is probably spending more money in restaurants and getting more exposure to new stuff," Brown said. "I get that a lot. 'I had dinner at wherever, and had a crazy little wine from South America, what have you got like that?' "

But the under-35 folks are not alone in delving more deeply. Brown said that only Gen X remains varietally driven.

"The people from 35 to 50, their focus is a little more directed," he said. "They have experimented and found out where their favorites are. They'll come in and say 'My favorite is Jordan cabernet. What have you got that's like that for a little less money?' Their focus is a little tighter."

Meanwhile, he added, "A lot of people in their 50s are moving in the other direction, like 'Now I want to experiment a little more.' They'll read something and say 'I hear rosés are really hot. What have you got?' "

Whatever their age, enthusiasts can shop confidently because of this: "There are more great and balanced wines than ever before," Vars said.

Bill Ward writes at Follow him on Twitter: @billward4.