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"Black people only drink sweet wine.": A Cultural Reality Check



Graphic of Paradise Rodriguez-Bordeaux sitting in the Leoniea Domaines Vineyard

"Black people only drink sweet wine."

This statement, though seemingly innocuous, encapsulates a pervasive myth that has lingered far too long in the world of wine. It's a stereotype that not only undermines the rich tapestry of preferences within the Black community but also perpetuates harmful misconceptions about who belongs in the realm of oenophiles. However, it's time to dismantle these falsehoods and recognize the vibrant diversity of Black wine enthusiasts and professionals who are making their mark in the industry.



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Myth Dispelment: Challenging the Misconceptions of Wine Preferences

For centuries, the wine industry has been a bastion of male influence, with women facing countless challenges and prejudices However, today's BIPOC winemakers are defying expectations, shattering glass ceilings, and proving that race is not a determinant of skill or talent in producing exceptional wines. They bring fresh perspectives, creativity, and innovation to the industry, resulting in a diverse range of wines that captivate the senses and challenge traditional norms. These trailblazing individuals are not only making their mark but also inspiring future generations of winemakers to pursue their passion fearlessly. 


In a recent group of Black wine lovers, I asked the question : "What's missing in wine?" The responses were as varied as the individuals themselves. Some spoke of the absence of representation, recounting experiences where their presence was overlooked or dismissed. One woman shared her frustration at being automatically directed towards sweet and cheap wines when visiting wineries, while another lamented the assumption that his expertise in fine dining was somehow diminished by the color of his skin. These anecdotes shed light on a larger issue at play – the lack of inclusivity and diversity within the wine industry. But amidst these challenges, there is a resounding affirmation: Black wine professionals are not only present but thriving, challenging stereotypes and reshaping the narrative around wine consumption and expertise.


In addition to Leoniea Domaines' dedicated wine societies and wine professional directory, several organizations actively work to promote diversity and inclusivity in the wine industry. The Association of African American Vintners supports Black-owned wineries and offers networking opportunities for Black professionals. Similarly, Wine Unify is dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion through education and mentorship programs, fostering a more equitable and representative wine community.


So who started the quote? While the exact start is unclear, there are a few difference research pieces that have concluded that Americans, in general; not just Black Americans, tend to lean more towards the sweeter items on the shelves. According to and SFGATE article "Traditionally, the reason was climate. California, the source of most American wines, enjoys many more warm days than almost everywhere in Europe, and as grapes hang out in the heat, their naturally occurring acids are neutralized."

In my opinion, it has a lot more to do with:

  • Cultural Influences: Taste preferences can be influenced by cultural factors, including culinary traditions and flavor profiles commonly found in certain cuisines. Some Black Americans may have grown up with foods that have sweeter flavors, and this preference may extend to their choice of wine.

  • Pairing with Spicy Foods: Sweet wines can provide a pleasant contrast and balance to spicy foods, which are often found in cuisines such as Mexican and Caribbean. Black Americans who enjoy these types of cuisines may find that sweet wines complement the flavors and provide a refreshing contrast.

  • Accessibility and Approachability: Sweet wines are often considered more approachable for individuals who are new to wine or who may not have developed a taste for drier wines. The sweetness can help mask any bitterness or astringency that may be present in some wines, making them more enjoyable for those who are still exploring their wine preferences.

  • Marketing and Representation: Representation and marketing play a significant role in shaping consumer preferences. Historically, the wine industry has not always effectively targeted or represented Black consumers in their marketing efforts. Lack of representation in wine advertisements and events may have contributed to a perception that wine is of interest to Black Americans; therefore discrediting the abundance of wine professionals.


Cultural traditions and heritage highly play a significant role in shaping the wine choices of individuals, reflecting deep-rooted connections to history, geography, and culinary practices. Wine is often intertwined with cultural rituals, celebrations, and social gatherings, making it more than just a beverage but a symbol of identity and tradition. For many, the wines they choose to drink are influenced by the customs and rituals passed down through generations, creating a sense of continuity and belonging.


In many cultures, wine is an integral part of religious ceremonies, family gatherings, and festive occasions. In Black culture, wine preferences are often influenced by rich traditions and heritage, reflecting a tapestry of flavors and experiences passed down through generations. Wine holds a special place in celebrations, gatherings, and everyday life, serving as a conduit for cultural expression and connection. For example, in Black communities, wine has historical significance, with traditions dating back to the days of slavery when homemade wines were crafted from fruits and berries; "most likely Muscadine but it was just not documented in history books."


Soul food, a cornerstone of Black cuisine, also plays a significant role in shaping wine preferences. The hearty, flavorful dishes often found in soul food cuisine, such as sweet potatoes, collard greens , grilled BBQ ribs, peach cobbler and Jambalaya, are complemented by robust and full-bodied wines like Pinot Noir or Zinfandel. The bold flavors of these dishes are balanced by the richness of the wine, creating a harmonious dining experience that celebrates the cultural heritage of Black Americans.



Quick Pairings

Not into alcoholic wines



Furthermore, music and art are integral parts of Black culture, and wine often serves as a complement to these forms of expression. Whether it's sipping wine while listening to jazz or enjoying a glass of wine at an art gallery opening, the cultural influences of music and art can shape the wine preferences of individuals within the Black community. Just as each note in a jazz composition contributes to the overall harmony of the music, each sip of wine can enhance the sensory experience, creating a multi-dimensional journey of taste, aroma, and emotion.


Yet, and still, hurdles remain.





Overcoming Hurdles: Challenges and Resilience in the Wine Industry

In their study, Examining motivations and challenges of black wine entrepreneurs using the push–pull theory of entrepreneurship, Bell (2024) highlights the stark underrepresentation of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) entrepreneurs in America's formal wine industry. Studies indicate that Black-owned wineries represent less than one percent of the 11,000 U.S. wineries, while only two percent of wine professionals identify as Black. These statistics underscore the urgent need for greater diversity and inclusion within the wine industry, signaling a call to action for systemic change.


According to a study examining the motivations and challenges of Black wine entrepreneurs using the push-pull theory of entrepreneurship, many individuals were "pushed" into the industry by a desire to create a more inclusive space for Black wine consumers and to foster opportunities for other Black professionals and minorities. This intrinsic motivation reflects a broader commitment to challenging systemic barriers and reshaping the landscape of the wine industry to be more representative and equitable.


The experiences of BIPOC individuals, especially women, in the wine industry shed light on the unique barriers often faced. Even as the founder of Leoniea Domaines, I have struggled with discrimination and sexism in the industry. There was an instance where a property deal for expansion was thwarted due to sexist assumptions about my role. The awards, my education and experience, nor did the money matter to him. He asked me where was my husband. At first, I thought, "here we go--time for the creepy to ooze', but it was much worse". I was annoyed and confused because all of the major details had already been reviewed and approved in the proposal. It was so weird that when I told the man I wasn't married, he seemed physically shocked and began to badger me about who would run and pay for the property. Turns out, the man thought I "was just a wife or assistant", and he declared that he "only works with businessmen". This ultimately led me to no longer wanting to lease, but instead outright purchase the property to ensure other women wouldn't face similar issues.


Thankfully, there is time to grow forward and do better, and that starts with #MindfulIndulgece; especially in ethical marketing practices. Other industry specialists have said the same. In an interview with Forbes, Julia Coney praised brands like Veuve Clicquot for their inclusive marketing approach, emphasizing the importance of making Champagne enjoyable for all consumers regardless of race. She suggested marketers engage with publications like Essence and Ad Week to better understand and communicate with Black consumers.


The underrepresentation highlights systemic barriers and inequalities that hinder access to opportunities within the wine sector. It emphasizes the importance of addressing disparities to promote equity and ensure equal access to resources and opportunities. Increasing representation and inclusivity not only fosters innovation and growth within the industry but also contributes to economic empowerment and social justice. Therefore, concerted efforts are needed to create a more representative and accessible wine industry that embraces diversity and provides opportunities for individuals from all backgrounds. It's clear that discussions around strategies for mentorship, professional development, and supporting Black-owned businesses are crucial for fostering greater inclusivity and equity within the wine industry.




Raising a Glass to Tomorrow

As we reflect on the anecdotes, statistics, and initiatives discussed, it's clear that there is still much work to be done. However, the resilience and determination of Black wine professionals remind us of the power of representation and the importance of amplifying diverse voices.


Moving forward, let us continue to challenge stereotypes, advocate for inclusivity, and support initiatives that promote diversity within the wine industry. Whether it's attending events hosted by Black-owned wineries, amplifying the voices of Black wine professionals on social media, or supporting organizations dedicated to diversity and inclusion, each of us has a role to play in shaping a more equitable future.


As we raise our glasses in celebration of the rich tapestry of flavors and experiences that wine offers, let us also raise our voices in solidarity with Black wine enthusiasts and professionals. Together, let's toast to inclusivity, diversity, and breaking down stereotypes within the wine industry – may we continue to raise the bar together.


Regardless of one's preferences in wine, one thing is abundantly clear - - POC Wine Professionals are here...to stay.


Sante!


Image of Leoniea Domaines wine grapes


Want to learn more? Head on over to Leoniea.com and read: Being Black in the World of Wine




 

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About Léoniea Domaines


Leoniea Domaines logo, which is a woman reaching up to the

Goddesses have been a symbol of strength and power throughout history, embodying feminine grace and wisdom. Léoniea™, the emblem of our wines, stands as a symbol of timeless elegance and refinement. Her grace is a reflection of the meticulous craftsmanship and artistry that shape every vintage. Our wines, akin to Léoniea™  herself, offer a celebration of complexity, balance, and unparalleled quality. They are more than mere beverages; they are an experience, a connection to the essence of sophistication, and a tribute to life's most exquisite pleasures. #Leoniea #LeonieaDomaines #EmbraceTheDivine



 

About the Author

Paradise Rodriguez-Bordeaux

🌎Global Business Strategist: Building Your Business To Sustainable Profits

🌟Philanthropist | Empowerment Mentor


A Paradise Company / Léoniea Domaines

best-selling author, entrepreneur, and thought leader.

     Paradise Rodríguez-Bordeaux, 2022 Human Rights Activist and the 2023 Innovative Leadership Awards recipient, says, ​ 

 "Sustainability is the bare minimum." 


Known for her commitment to sustainability and diversity, Paradise has made significant contributions to the business and wine industries She is a passionate advocate for those who have faced adversity and discrimination in life. She has been a philanthropist for more than 15 years, giving back to her community by supporting organizations that provide solutions for poverty alleviation and social justice. Her work as an innovator in business solutions led to the founding of... Learn More


"We need to consistently produce effectively efficient solutions.

This world, the communities, it's all of our responsibility.    Leaders HAVE to lead."



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