The power of 240 million wine drinkers can make an impact.
By: Erlinda A. Doherty
The next time you reach for a glass of wine, consider this: the wine in your glass, the label on your bottle, the reviews written about the wine, and the shop where you purchased the wine mostly likely did not involve a single person of color. If you are a person of color enjoying that wine, YOU were not factored into the wine equation. You were basically ignored. I know because, as a Latina in the wine industry, I am ignored too.
The wine industry continues to exclude people of color despite the fact that both African American and Latinx consumers represent a combined $3 trillion in buying power and are the fasting growing demographic sectors in our economy. In fact, according to reports from Nielson, people of color represent one-third of the legal wine-drinking population of our country and we are growing. To dismiss us is economically foolish and morally irresponsible.
Are You A Wine Professional?
Here are just a few ways you can make a difference.
Tap Into the Fastest-Growing Market Segment by Educating Yourselves
Reflect on your core values and make deliberate efforts to reach, employ, and support people of color. Consider how you may have excluded minorities at all levels and bring us into the fold, regardless if you represent a corporate brand, winery, wine shop, or bar.
Make Wine from Winemakers of Color Available
Just as you curate lists for natural wines or wines from female vintners, commit to sourcing wine from black winemakers and create a black winemaker section in your shop or bar menu. Seek out more diverse producers and hold your distributors and importers accountable. Encourage them to support black wine professional organizations through charitable donations. In addition, make an effort to establish relationships with minority-owned distributors and importers. Most importantly, don’t just do it for ‘occasions’ like Black History month—make it part of your normal ordering schedule.
Employ More People of Color
The path to becoming a wine professional is challenging, circuitous, and costly. The accomplishment is even more meritorious for those coming from economically-disadvantaged backgrounds. Hire and spotlight black sommeliers or wine directors at your bar or restaurant. Hire people of color to represent and educate on your brand. Many wine education organizations have started to offer scholarships and other opportunities for minorities and help graduates find employment. Seek out these passionate and smart wine professionals as they will only help your business thrive.
Consider Us When Creating Marketing Communications
We are tech savvy, socially-conscious, community-focused, and family-centered. Make your message meaningful and purposeful. Join our calls to action and put wine in our space. You have a chance to be part of the conversation at our dinner tables and help us create deep and meaningful connections with your wine. And quit with the stereotypes; we don’t all just like sweet wine.
The core reason I became a professional wine instructor is because I wanted to learn about wine but felt excluded from the mostly white, male-dominated industry. Approachability is critical. That’s how I teach my classes, that’s how my students want to learn. Wine education is empowering and creates a community of evangelists who want to engage, share, and experience this venerated beverage together.
Are You A Consumer?
We should care about the wine we drink just as we care about the food we eat, the charities we support, and minimizing the environmental impact of our daily lives. We wine lovers are a socially-conscious group so let’s take it to the next level and make a commitment to change.
Support Winemakers of Color
The wine business has some of the highest barriers to entry of any industry of color making it doubly challenging for those from economically-disadvantaged backgrounds to become a wine producer. Make an effort to seek out these winemakers and ask for them specifically at your wine shops. Be vocal about your choices and hold your wine store accountable for making them available. Even if the wines aren’t available, simply making the request will start the conversation.
Research Your Distributors/Importers
What’s available on the shelves for you to purchase is a direct result of shipments coming through import and distribution channels—the so-called “second tier.” Look at the labels on your bottles and find out who’s distributing or importing your wine to your favorite stores. Many second-tier businesses are focused on niches such as regions or styles with a few that are focused on women winemakers. Support the second-tier businesses that are trying to diversify their selections and make wine producers of color more mainstream. These are few and far between right now but, as a consumer, you can demand more representation of wine from more diverse origins.
Learn About the Wine You Drink
A large part of enjoying wine is understanding the story behind the bottle. Learn where it was made, how it was made, and who made it. Make a conscious effort to learn about its struggles and successes. Wine education will empower you to understand the intricacies of what’s in your glass, the diversity of wine regions, and the challenges of the industry.
Doherty is a sommelier, wine educator, and wine columnist who teaches—and preaches—about wine in an approachable, inclusive manner. As one of the few Latinx sommeliers, her mission is to demystify and share the real stories of the wine world. Want to learn more about diversity in the wine world? Contact Doherty directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on social media @thevinicola, and check out her classes at www.thevinicola.com.