With everything going on, and conscious of what a white world wine is (#winesowhite) I was moved to do some research into African-American owned wine businesses, to see if there was a way I could use my small platform to shine a spotlight. (Merely one of 75 ideas to be found here: 75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice)
There seems to be more data available about gender inequality than ethnic diversity in the wine industry but it's sadly uncontested that the world of wine is still predominantly a white, male space. Case in point this article by black wine writer Julia Coney: "I'm sorry, I thought you were the help".
So, I'm excited to share these brilliant stories from 3 pioneering wine producers - though of course there are many, many more - here are just 3 that really caught my eye.
THE MCBRIDE SISTERS
Bringing the Black Girl Magic
These half-sisters knew nothing of each other's existence, but were finally reunited. One lived in New Zealand, the other in California, where they independently developed a love of wine. You can watch their touching story of loss and reunion here. They now own a successful winery together - the largest African-American owned winery in the US, producing wines from California's Central Coast and New Zealand. They have a range of wines called "Black Girl Magic", after a Michelle Obama speech which launched a movement to celebrate the beauty, power and resilience of black women. As well as bottled wines they also produce a line of canned wines, aptly named, SHE CAN. (A much more sustainable and environmentally friendly option, but that's another topic altogether). And, to add an extra dazzle of class, they also offer a $40k development scholarship opportunity to women in wine to help level the playing field of ye olde white boy's club.
Available only in the US.
Some of the cleverest new world branding I've seen.
I absolutely adore the creative, tongue-in-cheek approach of this brand. Oregon as a wine region has become famous for taking on Burgundy - producing wines in a 'Burgundian' style (elegant, perfumed, savoury Pinot Noir), that rival the top domaines of the hallowed Cote d'Or. Much like California, but in a way, even cooler because it's that bit more niche and still feels a little bit like the new kid on the block. This is definitely the vibe this producer is playing on.
Cleverly playful, it pokes a tongue at tradition by linguistically and visually punning on the naming and labelling of the classical appellation controlee conventions. The wine isn't from Bourgogne, but "Oregogne", from the "Garage D'or" rather than the Cote D'or.
The Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is aptly named Touché (take that Burgundy!) and the Pinot Noir Rosé is called Bourgeois in a stroke of creative genius.
The brand is the brainchild of André Hueston Mack, who was honoured as the Best Young Sommelier in America by the highly regarded Chaine des Rotisseurs. They also make some awesome T-Shirts that continue the visual humour and wordplay on the classical wine world; I would definitely wear if I were a T-shirt kinda gal. Get your hands on the "schwag" here.
You can also buy Andre Mack's Book: 99 Bottles: A Black Sheep's Guide to Life Changing Wine
A man with a mission
1st generation Haitian-American Bertony Faustin is the first (recorded) black winemaker in Oregon in 2008. He says his father's death led him to reassess what he wanted to achieve in life and already by 2010 - his first vintage was 2008 - he was winning gold medals, despite not knowing anything about wine beforehand. He regards himself as not just a winemaker but a change maker. "It's great that I'm the first, but what's important is that I'm not the last". This is a man on a powerful mission; wine just happens to be his medium.
Never happy to rest on his laurels, he has created a production company and produced a documentary that explores the stories and struggles of minority winemakers in Oregon: Red White and Black: The Oregon Wine Story which you can watch here.
"People are amazed by my work ethic, by my resilience, but I can't take all the credit. It was bred into me." Truth.
All three are widely available in the US and Maison Noir do also ship to Europe, though I wasn't able to find UK distributors... yet.