There are over 8,700 wineries in the US, but less than 1% are black-owned or have black winemakers. Two sisters, Andréa and Robin McBride, founded the McBride Sisters Wine Collection with the aim of changing the industry.
After the assassination of George Floyd, nationwide protests sparked talks about the impact of racism and ways to better serve black communities – including their businesses. In July, cross-industry black entrepreneurs shared their work during the Blackout Tuesday social media campaign, and the McBride sisters were determined to raise awareness about black winemakers.
They created and shared a list of 86 winemakers on Instagram with a reminder to their followers: the power was in their hands.
"Post this on your social networks again and tag the retailer who you buy your wine from and ask them to bring in your favorite black-owned wine brand," the post said. "Go to your favorite store (with a mask, of course!) And tell them about a black-owned wine brand that you want to try and help with a purchase."
The post went viral as celebrities like Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union shared it on their pages.
"I actually got emails from retailers who thought I had armies of sellers all over the country," says Andréa McBride with a laugh. "They got emails from their managers saying, 'We keep bringing people here. "
Before May, the McBride Sisters could be found in 84 stores around the country. Today, it is said, the brand can be found in 2,697.
Now more black winegrowers are getting more attention.
Lindsey Williams of the Davidson Wine Company has only been in business for a little over a year, but after July she received inquiries from national retailers and restaurants in California and New York.
Lindsey Williams owns and operates the Davidson Wine Company. Courtesy of the Davidson Wine Company
"I remember getting tagged on several things during this new normal, and the next thing I do is one of the big box stores on social media," says Chrishon Lampley, who founded Love Cork Screw. "And that got wildfire from other big box stores that are now actually replying to my emails, giving customers tremendous power."
"There is a perception that African Americans don't take wine seriously and that we are unable to learn about wine," says Lampley. "And that's just wrong."
Customers flood Trader Joe's Black Girls Instagram account with comments as they search for black-owned wines at their favorite grocery stores. ("Did you find it? Check this out.") This community of black foodies celebrates each other's finds and bands together to help people with unfortunate zip codes. ("Nobody can send me a bottle of mine.") And they ask their stores to add wines to their inventory. ("Union Square Trader Joe's wine store will have to take care of this when I get back to work.")
McBride says before Black Girls reported their bottles in Trader Joe, their products could only be found in a few Trader Joe locations. Weeks later? You were national with Trader Joe.
"I think that's a really good example of how they stood up for us and were loud enough – we can be business activists. We have purchasing power," says McBride.
Williams said visitors travel up to four hours to the Davidson Wine Company in Davidson, NC. "I think that's a testament to how many people want to go somewhere to enjoy or try wine for the first time – and that really is look at someone and see yourself," she says.
Greg Markell Lawrence, co-founder of Markell-Bani Fine Wines, says it's easy to keep the momentum going for black-owned wines. If you are a consumer, subscribe to your favorite wine club and have a drink. And for people of color who are really passionate about wine, the industry needs you.
"The only way that real uplift and change can happen is to get more black entrepreneurs into other aspects of the wine industry," suggests Markell Lawrence. “If we do that, we won't have to go to other people to make, distribute, package and sell our wines. We can do it ourselves without having to rely on others. "
But black wine lovers say they don't have access.
“There are no instructions for getting started in the wine industry,” says Donae Burston, founder of La Fete du Rosé. "Given the amount of money it takes to buy a vineyard and make wine, historically opportunities have only been offered to those of money or social status and pedigree."
The McBride sisters started a fund to help black women entrepreneurs grow their businesses. In 2019, the SHE CAN Professional Development Fund reported a $ 40,000 contribution to help women attend wine industry conferences and pursue wine education opportunities. This year, the fund aims to help small business owners overcome their lack of access to credit or venture capital by granting them $ 10,000.
To provide people of color with a fun place to learn about wine, the sisters have also set up a virtual wine school. In their course, the nine types of wine and their characteristics are conveyed via Facebook modules with the help of important pop icons. Beyoncé? Definitely sparkling champagne. Rihanna? It feels more like a Sauvignon Blanc.
"Humans have been making wine for 8,000 years, and for the last 200 years it has really been dominated by a group of people," says McBride. "There is an opportunity here to open up a new perspective to strengthen the experience."