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As we start to look beyond the labels and look at what goes into our wines and who is producing our wines, we can’t help but notice the disparity of Black-owned wineries and Black winemakers. Black-owned wineries currently make up just about a tenth of 1 percent of the entire industry. Perhaps it's because Blacks didn’t grow up around wine, or have a culture of winemaking. I was well into my adult years before I started drinking wine, and even later learning more about it and developing my palate. "African-American winemakers are a certified minority," says Phil Long, owner of Longevity Wines. "You can count them on one hand."
The Black Lives Matter movement shone a light on various industries that had minimal representation of Blacks. The wine industry was no exception. But the tide quickly turned into highlighting those in the industry, the ones making, selling, and teaching wines to the masses.
Show your support by stocking your wine fridge and wine racks with these best wines from Black-owned wineries.
Best Rosé: La Fête du Rosé
The name itself literally means rosé party! So this is the rosé you should be drinking not just in the summer, but whenever you are looking to drink something pink. Owner Donae Burston developed the idea for this wine while partying at Nikki Beach in St Tropez. “What I thought was this zinfandel with ice cubes in the glass, turns out it was rosé. So from that moment on, rosé became like this significant drink in my life,” says Burston.
As for the winemaking technique, Burston says, “The average is about three months for most rosés, [but] we're pushing close to five to six months. So that's where the color comes from—a lot more skin contact. And the time that they've had to ferment in the steel tanks together as well, is what really makes our blend unique.”
Looking for more ways to support Black winemakers? Donate to organizations and funds to help educate and provide opportunities for those who want to break into the industry but need a bit of direction. Organizations like Black Wine Professionals, Wine Unify, and The Roots Fund highlight BIPOCs in the industry and assist others who want to gain entry into the world of wine.
Best Chardonnay: Maison Noir Knock On Wood Chardonnay
Starting at a desk job with Citicorp Investment Services, André Mack knew that there was something else out there for him. So he left the cushy desk job to dive into the wine industry. He worked as head sommelier of Per Se in NYC and later began making his own wine under the label Maison Noir. This chardonnay is all stainless steel, no oak, and made from grapes grown on a hillside vineyard in Oregon. Think melon and apple, with hints of minerality and citrus all poured into one bottle. It’s the chardonnay for those who don’t think they like chardonnay.
Best Cabernet: Longevity Cabernet Sauvignon
Created by winemaker Phil Long, Longevity Wines out of Livermore, California abides by the philosophy, "It is not just about the wines, but the experience." In other words, it's where you drink your wine and who you want to drink it with. While Longevity makes wines like grenache, petite sirah, and zinfandel, just to name a few, its cabernet sauvignon is the one we most want to sip on a cold winter's night by the fireplace. This full-bodied wine has bold flavors of dark fruits with notes of oak and anise on the finish.
Best Blend: Maison Noir Horseshoes and Handgrenades
André Mack, owner of & Sons Ham Bar in NYC, scores another spot on this list with his Maison Noir’s Horseshoes and Handgrenades. Sarita Cheaves, producer of the wine podcast Swirl Suite calls Mack a “prince among winemakers." "He isn’t afraid to break barriers," she notes. This makes sense when thinking of this wine, a blend of 64 percent syrah, 19 percent merlot, 17 percent cabernet sauvignon, that’s unique in its style, taste, and the fact that the grapes come from Oregon as well as Washington state. On the nose are rich, dark cherry notes with hints of leather, perfect for a hamburger or steak dinner.
Best Sparkling: LVE French Sparkling Rosé by John Legend
LVE is the line of wines from musician John Legend that were created with JC Boisset. With grapes sourced from different regions around France, this sparkling rosé has a unique style. Peach in color—but yes it is rosé—it gives citrus, red berry fruit, and plenty of small, delicate bubbles.
Best for a Gift: Theopolis Vineyards Petite Sirah
Theodora R. Lee, aka Theo-patra, Queen of the Vineyards, is originally from Texas but now bottling her own award-winning wines in Anderson Valley at Theopolis Vineyards. Established in 2003, the label received ratings of 94-96 points from Wine Critic Robert Parker for its first harvest in 2006! An amazing showing for a first harvest and Theodora hasn’t slowed down since.
Her petite sirah is by far the most popular of her wines and tastes of raspberries, toasted oak, and some even say hints of cola. Gift this wine to someone who really enjoys red wines and is looking for something a bit different to enjoy now, or wait a few years as this wine has great aging potential.
Best High-End: Wade Cellars Three by Wade Cabernet Sauvignon
A force to be reckoned with on the basketball court, retired basketball star Dwyane Wade has taken his talents to the vineyard with the release of his Three by Wade line of wines. The Three by Wade Cabernet Sauvignon, in particular, is one to look for when you want to spend a bit more money to impress. Sourced from vineyards in Napa Valley, this full-bodied cabernet sauvignon displays dark fruit and tobacco on the palate. The bold style and rich flavors will blow you away. Another slam dunk from D. Wade.
Best After Dinner: Love Cork Screw Head Over Heels
The guests have moved away from the table, the dishes are being cleared, but the drinking is not yet done. It’s time to serve Head Over Heels Sweet Riesling. Love Cork Screw is the creation of entrepreneur Chrishon Lampley. She wanted wine to be fun and not intimidating and was often hosting in-home wine tastings to familiarize others with her brand. With fun wine names such as Movin on Up and Touch the Sky, she’s definitely added her own touch to her wines and the industry. Head Over Heels is great paired with a dessert or as the dessert itself. Sweet yet also soft is a great way to describe this wine.
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Tanisha Townsend is a wine educator, podcaster, and writer currently living her wine life in Paris, France. She can regularly be found wandering through a French vineyard or drinking wine with friends and colleagues to bring you the best selection of wines from Black-owned wine brands.