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Black-Owned Wines & Spirits Roundup

Photo by Stacy Preston Photography, courtesy of Uncle Nearest

(By Kristen Adaway for Thrillist) I don’t know who needs to hear this, but it’s time to add some new bottles to your bar cart. Or wherever you stash your booze. As a part of the fight to increase equity among Black-owned businesses and brands, it’s important to be intentional about buying Black. A common obstacle that many Black owners of spirits and wines face however is having their products accessible in physical and online stores.

Ashlee Tuck, cocktail enthusiast and founder of Will Drink For Travel curates information on Black businesses, including restaurants and spirits and has an expansive, growing list of Black-owned spirits. “As a part of my lifestyle, it’s just important to support Black businesses across the board. And, since I love cocktails and spirits, it was just a natural fit for me.”

Spreading awareness of these brands is critical to their success and she mentioned distribution as a major hurdle. “A distributor has to pick you up in order for you to be put into liquor stores and a lot of distributors may not want to take a chance on Black owned spirits or, it may not be a big name like Tito’s or Jack Daniel,” Tuck said. “They really have trouble getting into liquor stores now. But it would be nice to just walk into a liquor store anywhere you go and just have like a Black-owned section or just know you’re going to go and see Guidance Whiskey on the shelf.”

Cha McCoy, certified sommelier and beverage director for Cherry Bombe echoed Tuck’s sentiments on intentionally buying Black-owned wines and products in general. “Everybody starts from somewhere and most Black wine makers don’t have the room to grow. We don’t have legacies of generations of fifth generational winemakers. Ways you can support building Black winemakers as they build a legacy, is by ordering and tasting their wine, and maybe today the wine is drinkable, but as they learn more their wine will develop. Give new wine brands a shot! Consumers can help Black winemakers on their journey by purchasing new winemakers wine and tracking their development by tasting different vintages over time. But you drink the wine and you go, ‘Oh, you know what? I wasn’t in love with the label, or the name on it, but I love the wine. I love what you’re doing here,’ and you get to learn something new about a lot of Black-owned wineries and winemakers. Like with ZAFA Wines in Vermont, I don’t think I would have ever had a wine from Vermont if it wasn’t for her.”

One of the best ways to help Black-owned spirits and wines brands besides buying them if they’re near you is to ask your local retailers to carry them if they aren’t. You can’t try something new if you don’t see it or know about it, which is why this guide serves as a starting point into intentional buying. I enlisted the help of Tuck and McCoy to curate a couple of their favorite brands they think you should try. Find out more about the brands they mentioned and more below.

Curated by Cha McCoy

Photo by Homer Horowitz, courtesy of ZAFA Wines

ZAFA Wines and CO Cellars

New York isn’t the only place that claims apples as its official state fruit. Don’t sleep on Vermont apples and definitely put Krista Scruggs on your radar for her unique take on wines and ciders. Scruggs founded ZAFA Wines in 2018 in Isle La Motte, Vermont, with a focus on hybrid grapes and wild apples grown in the state. Sustainability is put first as all of ZAFA’s beverages are made using native fermentation with a process free of filtering, additives and fining. ZAFA’s current lineup includes three sparkling wines expected to be restocked during spring 2021, along with three canned wines, ciders, and a cider-wine blend from CO Cellars, a collaboration between Shacksbury Cider and ZAFA.

“I’d definitely recommend [the ciders] if you’re looking for something a little fizzy. It’s a nice in-between if you’re not a beer lover, but you don’t want something as heavy in alcohol as wine,” McCoy said. “People know about the wines, but I think it would be worth mentioning [Krista] as a cider maker.”

Maison Noir Wines 2017 “Oregogne” Chardonnay

André Hueston Mack is a household name in the world of wines. In 2007, the seasoned sommelier founded Maison Noir, a line of wines ranging from rosé and riesling to pinot noir and red blends, and even apparel that’s inspired by wine and the street hip hop and punk culture of the ‘90s. While his Other People’s Pinot (O.P.P.) wines are more commonly available to buy online and in wine shops, McCoy recommends you stretch your wings and try the Oregogne chardonnay.

“I think most of the ones that you see are the ones that are in the O.P.P. range, but I actually love his more higher end level, which you don’t really see too much, so I would make sure to get his Oregogne. It’s really rich and it’s limited production, so it’s his homage, in my case, to a Grand Cru level, versus the other ones being more like village level,” McCoy said.

The 2017 Oregogne Chardonnay is crisp with full hints of lemon cucumber, green pear, grilled hazelnuts and yellow apple. A bottle runs at $40 not including shipping.

Read the full story here.

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