How Black Women In Wine And Their Allies Are Banding Together To Achieve Better Representation

Posted: Nov 08, 2019

Wine consumption in the U.S. is higher than ever, but despite efforts to promote inclusivity among consumers (like the popular #YouCanSipWithUs campaign on Instagram), the needle hasn’t moved much at all for black women working in the wine world. Ninety percent of the wine produced in the U.S. is made in California, but only 10% of the state’s wineries are led by a female winemaker—and the number is much lower when it comes to black female winemakers. When it comes to Michelin-starred restaurants, precisely none have a black woman operating a wine program or working as a wine buyer.

Recently, however, black female vintners, sales reps, educators and writers—and their allies—have made it their mission to amplify their numbers in the industry. And in light of events like a 2015 lawsuit involving a group of predominantly black women who were kicked off the Napa Valley Wine Train after being accused of being too loud and disruptive, many of these wine professionals have been leading their own wine seminars, tours and one-on-one consulting to help establish a pipeline of diverse wine knowledge in the black community.

“Women of color have more of a challenge—number one because nobody expects them to know much about wine,” says Mac McDonald, president of the Association of African-American Vintners (AAAV). “But we’re not about getting together and just drinking. We’re about education.”

The AAAV is still small—it only has 18 members (and anticipates to have 30 total members by 2020), of which just 7 are women—but the fact that it exists is an achievement. Before it was founded in 2002, there was no such association for black winemakers. Members, including Robin and Andréa McBride, are trying to further the organization’s mission by spearheading their own educational initiatives. The sisters announced their inaugural self-funded scholarship fund this month, which is awarding a total of $37,500 to 12 female recipients, all in the early stages of their career, in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 with the hope of fostering career development for women in wine.

By Brianne Garrett 
November 6, 2019
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