THE (NOT SO) BLACK WORLD OF WINE

Yesterday was, for me (as I hope it was for many) a day to shut up and reflect. I took the chance to ask myself, how can I do better? How can I help? What position, or platform (however small it may be) do I have, that can make a meaningful contribution?

As a member of the wine world, I believe I have a responsibility to look at a bottle of wine a little more deeply. Yes, I love the tastes, smells, and emotions a bottle of wine gifts me. This said, I am equally, if not more, attached to the story of the bottle of wine.

Yesterday, I asked myself, have I ever tasted a wine produced by a black owned and operated establishment? None came to mind. What about a wine that was crafted by a black winemaker, at least? Drawing a blank on that one too. Ok well, what about restaurants – have you ever had a dining experience with a black sommelier? Nope, I can’t say I have…

I came across this quote by Scott Woods that resonated with me:

“The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense…racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on.”

Racism doesn’t have to be an obvious and overt act of violence, discrimination, or harassment. It is deeply entrenched in our societal makeup. So deep, it’s become a part of every day life. While I may not see them, the reasons why I don’t see black owned and operated wineries, black winemakers, black sommeliers, probably have to do with these subtle, entrenched systems of racial discrimination, rooted in our society. I am privileged and fortunate enough to go through life without experiencing them.

The absence of black people in the world of wine is so blatantly obvious, yet I was completely and utterly unaware of it until literally just yesterday.

Yesterday, I pulled up a list of black owned and operated wineries across North America, Europe, and South Africa. I entered each of these names into the LCBO website, to see if it would be possible to get my hands on some product. Staggeringly, the options were 20 bottles of South African Pinotage, and 5 bottles of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at $190 a pop…!

I emailed the LCBO – just to confirm my investigative work. Sadly, they confirmed. To their credit however, the rep from LCBO responded in a very prompt, professional, and informative manner. I was provided with a list of products by black owned and operated wineries that will soon be available on the shelves of the LCBO.

Here’s my call to action, for all Ontarian consumers of wine. Purchase with purpose. Consider black wineries, black winemakers. Consider these offerings that will soon be available to you:

  1. Maison Noir Wines, 2018 OPP Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, WA. Expected release Date: August 8th, 2020
  2. Wade Cellars, 2018 Three. Release Date: August 2nd, 2020
  3. House of Mandela:
    1. 2017 Phumla Pinotage. Released: Summer 2019. Very limited quantities remaining in Arnprior, Brampton, Thornbury, and Vaughan.
    1. 2017 Western Cape Shiraz. Release Date: October 31st, 2020.
  4. Domaine Curry, 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon. Expected release date: Fall 2020.

All things considered, for the largest province in Canada, it’s an incredibly small offering. Furthermore, NONE of these wines made by black Canadian wineries or winemakers, so I’ve included a highlight of a black winemaker, making some magic in Niagara:

Steve Byfield, Nyarai Cellars, Niagara

Of course, there are options beyond the LCBO. In Niagara, there’s a winemaker by the name of Steve Byfield. After honing his craft at several top end wineries in the region, Steve embarked on his own project, Nyarai Cellars, located in Annan, ON. He’s been at it since Nyarai’s inaugural release in 2009. Today, Nyarai’s selection features a 2017 Field Blender’s White (Vidal, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay), a 2012 Veritas (Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec), a 2016 Pinot Gris, a 2015 Viognier, and a 2014 Cadence (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec).

One thought

  1. Always a pleasure to read you! Thanks for your thoughts, empathy, engagement and wonderful suggestions!
    Proud of you!

    Like

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