BIPOC-owned wine brands to support now and always | Good + Good
Normally you can choose which wine to buy based on the second cheapest on the menu or the prettiest bottle. But now that you have more time to think about your purchases, this is the perfect opportunity to be more aware of the brands that you are backing with your money.
As with many other industries, the wine industry is dominated by white voices, and people of color face additional barriers, including access to education, funding, and opportunities to build business relationships. important which make them more difficult to start in space. According to Wines & Spirits, less than 1 percent of American wineries are owned by blacks. And they (and the other brands belonging to BIPOC) deserve our attention and support.
You do not know where to start ? Here are three BIPOC-owned wine brands that deserve your attention, followed by a list of even more to discover. And don’t worry, the bottles are always so cute.
When Robin McBride and her sister, Andrea McBride-John, decided to go into the wine business together in 2005, they didn’t know any other woman of color who had done so before. âPeople of color were very left out and left out of the conversation, and being women of color that was something we felt personally,â McBride said. “But we wanted to change that.”
It took a lot hard work, but over time the sisters built a brand that became available in stores across the United States including Trader Joe’s, Kroger, Wal-Mart, and Total Wine & More. (You can also buy it online.) “[Succeeding in the wine business] really comes down to relationships and access to a good product, âsays McBride.
The sisters knew from the start that they had good wine (theirs is from New Zealand and they entered the market just as New Zealand wine was attracting a lot of attention) and relationships developed in over time. âWe spent our days and nights researching restaurants, hotels, and wine merchants and just calling or introducing ourselves to their businesses,â McBride said. “This is absolutely not how we make wine – we got yelled at a lot – but we didn’t know the protocol. We really built our business relationship by relationship.”
She remembers a particular time when the two were carrying (very heavy) crates of their wine around San Francisco. They had mapped out all the places they wanted to stop, enticing potential buyers to taste their wine. “We wanted to look cute, so we had nice outfits and heels on, and then we got to that big hill – it was basically straight!” McBride remembers. They continued to advance, climbing the hill with the cases of wine. âI took off my heels at the end of the day and there was blood in my shoes,â she says.
Now that the sisters have succeeded in the wine business, they are moving forward, helping other women-owned and BIPOC-owned wine brands succeed with a little less blood, sweat and tears. Last year they launched the She Can Professional Development Fund to bridge gender and race gaps in the wine industry, by awarding $ 40,000 in scholarships to female wine brand owners.
This year, the fund is focused on helping black-owned businesses. “Almost half of all black-owned businesses have closed for good this year [due to COVID-19] and 95 percent were ineligible or were denied funds to help them, “says McBride.” So that’s where we’re targeting our funds this year and we’ve received over 2,000 applications. âTheir goal is to create 100 black- and women-owned businesses with grants of $ 10,000.
They also offer free wine training for anyone who wants to learn. âOne of the barriers for many people entering the wine business is that it can be expensive to learn about wine,â says McBride. But the sisters offer free tutorials via their Facebook page. âWe created modules and at the end of each module you take a quiz,â says McBride. “And we make it really fun, comparing one type of wine to Beyonce and another to RuPaul.” This is a quarantine course worth taking!
Like the McBride sisters, Chrishon Lampley, owner of Love Cork Screw, says she didn’t know any other black wine owner when the set started at the business. Prior to founding his wine brand, Lampley owned a wine bar and art gallery in Chicago. After a flood at her store that her insurance company refused to cover, she was forced to close in 2012. âI fell into a very dark place after that,â Lampley says. “I did not know what to do.”
As a creative outlet, she started a blog, Love Cork Screw, which was half about wine and half about her personal life – bad dates and all. His funny stories and wise wine advice both got people hooked. Soon he was offered his own internet radio show. Readers and listeners took Lampley’s advice on wine to buy and order in restaurants seriously. So seriously in fact that it sparked the idea of ââlaunching his own brand.
âPeople told me I couldn’t do it,â Lampley says. âI didn’t have a license. I did not have a vineyard. In three years, I did everything I was told I couldn’t do. And today, eight years later, my wine is sold at major brands including Target, Wal-Mart and Total Wine & More. “
Lampley may seem easy, but she says it’s been a long and hard road and she’s come a long way in forming a key relationship at the same time. âThere aren’t many black women in the wine industry. I had to fight for my place and I still fight,â she says. “I am asked additional questions and I see that more are not asked to prove my validity. It’s a fight, but it’s a fight that I chose.”
Lampley says that for the industry to be more welcoming to owners of color brands, there must be more funding opportunities, as well as more people championing existing wine brands owned by BIPOC. âThere are great brands out there, but they have to be seen,â she says. “You have to have the ability to sell. You just need the chance.”
âBelieve it or not, I got into wine watching old episodes of Fraiser,â said Andre Hueston Mack, owner of Maison Noir. âIt was the show that gave me the courage to enter a wine store for the first time. Once in the industry, it was my curiosity that led me to the production side of the industry.”
Following this curiosity, Mack had a gift for wine from the start. In 2003, at the age of 30 and barely two years after the start of his career, he became the first black American to win the award for best young sommelier in America. âIt was a very surreal moment for me,â Mack says. âAs someone who doesn’t celebrate small wins – or wins in general – this is a moment that continues to inspire not only others but more myself. To this day, it continues to push me to live. until that point and to be better than ‘just a guy with potential.’ “
His wine brand, Maison Noir, was launched four years later and is currently sold at Total Wine & More and in specialty wine stores across the country. âThe hardest part of the job, I have to say, is the curved balls that Mother Nature throws at you to keep you on your toes,â Mack says. But he adds that the reward is sweet, literally and figuratively. “It’s rewarding on so many different levels, from the amazing raw product we work with to the memories we create with amazing people.”
8 other wine brands belonging to BIPOC to support
Alumbra, which means “shining light” in Spanish, is a wine brand founded by a Mexican immigrant who moved to Oregon in the 1970s in search of a better life. It is still a family business, with a commitment not only to making good wine, but also to being a good steward of the environment.
An American-Mexican family brand, you can join Cejas every Tuesday evening for Taco Tuesday evenings on Facebook Live. This funny fam shows that wine isn’t meant to be stuffy, it’s meant to be enjoyed.
3. Flo Wine
Owned by musician Marcus Johnson, these easy-drinking wines will make your taste buds dance. They also sell a gift set which comes with three bottles and lots of snacks, if you’re looking for a holiday gift everyone (who drinks) will love it.
When Shae and Greg Frichette couldn’t decide between living in South Carolina or Washington (two states where they had family), they threw a coin. Fate drove them to Washington, and once settled in, they pursued their dream of making wine. As anyone who has tried their wine can tell you, it was a lucky penny for everyone.
Launched last year, Jenny Dawn Cellars is already sold in 38 states (and available online no matter where you live in the US). Choose from one of 11 wines, a range enough to please everyone.
Markell-Bani Wines was started by two friends who are passionate about wine and sick of the lack of diversity in the wine industry. The duo haven’t let being the only black at wine events hamper their success – and now they have a flourishing brand to show for it.
A brand co-owned by two sisters, The Guilty Grape launched during the pandemic, a major achievement. If you love a good rose, their California Zinfandel is about to become your new favorite.
There’s a reason Theopolis Vineyards owner Theodora Lee is known as Theo-patra, Queen of the Vineyards; sipping this wine will make you feel like royalty. For her, making wine started out as a hobby, but the fruits of her labor were so good that it turned into a full-fledged business. One of the flagship products: Theopolis Vineyards Estate Grown Petite Sirah 2015, which has notes of blueberries, dark chocolate, currents and black tea.
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