Guess What? You’re White! – American Winemaking’s Diversity Crisis

Vinted on July 1, 2009 binned in commentary, winemaking

Will a lack of diversity hurt the winemaking industry in the future?

Hey wine lovers and winemakers – Let me tell you a little about you.

Chances are, you’re white.  Or, I should say, chances are you’re not black – especially if you’re a winemaker in the U.S.

In fact, if you’re an American winery owner, there is a 99.9% chance that you’re not black, because African American winery owners represent roughly 1/1000th of the total number of wineries in the U.S.  That’s a staggering misalignment with the diversity of the American population.  If American winemakers held a dance party tomorrow, it would be a clinic in the world’s worst overbite-sporting dance floor moves, because it would be lilywhite.

Based on the numbers above, it’s not a stretch to say that the state of African American representation in winemaking is pathetic.

And frankly, given the racial divides that have been crossed in recent years, the American winemaking community should consider that an embarrassment.

It’s an embarrassment nearly on the same level of the U.S. space program, which spends billions sending people into Earth orbit (using a craft that is run by three 286 CPUs) to conduct experiments, circle the Earth a few times and come back – which one could argue is a huge waste of money and people potential when there is so much more we could be doing in terms of space exploration than basically duplicating what Sputnik did in 1957.

As for why we’re in this situation, I blame the winemakers – black, white, and every color in-between…

I’ve no doubt that African American vintners care deeply about making the best wine that they can, and I’d be willing to bet that many of the wines made by African American winemakers are superb.  But I do doubt how seriously African American winemakers are taking the matter of expanding the number of black winemakers.

Case in point: I contacted most of the six members of the Association of African American Vintners in preparation for this article.  After initial correspondence where they agreed to help and field my questions, the total number of responses I’ve had to my specific inquiries is ZERO.

Sorry, folks – that’s not trying hard enough, even if I am B-list blogger.

About this time last year, NPR ran a radio piece with then AAAV head and Esterlina Vineyards co-owner Stephen Sterling.  It seems that in the year since that interview took place, there hasn’t been a great deal of forward momentum for the black winemaking and wine appreciation community.  Speaking from personal experience, I’m starting to lament the homogeneousness of – and general lack of diversity in – the wine business in general.

Which could be exactly what the wine word doesn’t need right now.  Why? Because the people buying fine wine in the U.S. are no longer rich white people.  There is a growing population of affluent ethnic minority consumers who are becoming wine buyersWhich means that U.S. winemakers, as a poorly diverse group, are well positioned to lose more customers, since it’s a long-established notion that diversity is good for business, increasing customers. market share, and overall profit, while lack of diversity does has the opposite effect on businesses.

What should be even more concerning for U.S. winemakers is that the lack of diversity in their ranks sets them up poorly to service the newest generation of wine drinkers, Millennials.  Millennials as a group are more ethnically diverse than the Baby Boomers who are buying most of the wine sold today. More importantly, Millennials think of themselves as more ethnically diverse and expect to be treated that way as consumers:

Not only have they grown up in an age in which diversity was taught in school, but a full one-third of the Millennial generation identifies themselves as non-Caucasian. Because of this, they often question any marketing that is not inclusive, and doesn’t portray diverse races and genders. In addition, they are highly influenced by minority cultures, in terms of music, sports, dress and language. The marketing implication here is to show diversity in all advertisements, emphasize universal values, and consider focus on specific cultural values.

I know what some of you are thinking.

The color of the winemaker’s skin shouldn’t matter!  What matters is what’s in the glass!!

And if we lived in a utopian society, I’d agree with you.

But the world simply doesn’t work that way.  If it did, we wouldn’t have had to wait so freakin’ long to get a person with President Obama’s background in the White House.  The bottom line is that race is still a struggle for many, and equality is a battle that is slowly being won in America – but not without effort.

The ‘wine crowd’ is still, by-and-large, the ‘white crowd’.

We all need to do our part to change that.  Winemakers… are you listening?

Cheers!

(images: outofcharacter.blogspot.com, whosthebeaver.com)

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    Comments

  • Evan Dawson


    This post smacks of a traffic booster, Joe, because I get nothing in the way of a solution other than the assertion that advertisements should include more non-whites. Oh, and the obscure AAAV should try to be less obscure or something.

    You'll get a ton of responses, as this post was designed to engender, no doubt. And perhaps the ensuing conversation will yield some ideas. But complaining about American wine's lack of diversity won't magically solve things.

    And consider this: Who buys most wine in a tasting room? Who opens most bottles of wine in the American home? Women, of course! And yet female winemakers are statistically rare. Your premise seems to indicate that a whitewashing of marketing leads to white drinkers and white winemakers. But considering that women show up in marketing, and women buy wine, and women drink wine, why don't more women make wine?

    Not saying I have the answers, and I'd like to see more diversity too. But I don't get how this post impacts anything. We're all already aware of the relative lack of diversity.

    • 1WineDude


      Evan – I appreciate your interpretation of the post. If you think I'm after traffic instead of dialog about the topic, that's your prerogative. I'd only offer up my "body of work" – 99%+ of my previous posts, which I'd argue were geared towards the later (and the slow & steady growth of my blog traffic – which is going up for sure, but I'd argue has not been explosive).

      I agree that women are under-represented in winemaking, but they are certainly making more inroads into it than ethnic minorities are.

      Like you, I don't have a solution. I do indeed hope that this post generates discussion about the topic, because I disagree with you that the world of American winemaking is "already aware of the relative lack of diversity" – I think that the history of business / enterprise in the U.S. shows that lack of diversity remains an 'invisible' problem until people in that industry start to discuss it more openly.

      • Evan Dawson


        I didn't mean to come off as harsh, as I laud the idea of discussing this topic, but I don't think this is a new idea. What's needed are new approaches — if you believe that the disparity needs addressing at all. Certainly many folks will say that the market can work itself out without bending over backwards. I tend to agree with you that increasing diversity is an important goal.

        I just found the post a little muddy and lacking in new solutions. If it's marketing to a more diverse audience, I think that's great. I'd be curious to do a little investigating and find out what marketing directors think about diversity inclusion in marketing campaigns. In the post you start by talking specifically about the dearth of black winemakers and consumers, but then you transition to non-white. We are talking specifically about black inclusion, right?

        • 1WineDude


          Oh, I don't think your comment was harsh.

          I'm not talking specifically about African American winemakers, but using that as an example of the lack of diversity. For me, the key point is that the lack of diversity is (potentially) setting up the wine industry for even harder times in the future, since they won't represent the changing demographic of the people consuming their products…

          • Jon


            As it is, 85% of the wine Consumed in this country is consumed by 15% of the population. I manage a retail wine and spirits store, and quite frankly, i don't think the diversity of the people making the wine makes a hill of beans to who is buying it. People buy wine that is good. The point that lack of diversity will hurt the industry is silly! Take a look at the Percentage of African Americans graduating college with a degree in Oenology and Viticulture. Thats what has an impact on the lack of diversity.

            • 1WineDude


              Thanks, Jon.

              I think that's true, to a point. Certainly the quality of the wine in the bottle is the ultimate determinant, but longer term there is evidence to suggest that diversity in a company and industry brings more success to that company / industry. Just because the lack of diversity doesn't negatively impact the industry now doesn't necessarily mean that it won't in the future.

              I suppose in a way what I'm saying is that the industry of wine as a whole should be taking a harder look at *why* more minorities aren't graduating with viticulture degrees in the U.S.

              • Jon


                I still don't seem to understand your correlation. That's like saying, quite simply, and mind you I'm playing devils advocate a little. But, It's like saying Why aren't there more White hip-hop/Rap artists! Wont a lack of diversity in the Rap community hurt its success in the future?? Or why aren't there more white people playing basketball in the NBA?? These questions don't make much sense either! It's a silly point to try to argue!!

              • 1winedude5036


                Is it really a silly thing to ask? If we don't ask, we'd just assume the answers – and those answers might not be right.

              • Jon


                People get into the wine business because they love it…. that's it… they don't get into it for the money, or for the prestige. Its cause they love it! You can give NAACP all the scholorships you want for Viticulture and oenology, The fact will still remain, unless you are in it for the passion of making wine, you'd just be going through the paces. Wine is about connecting with people through the art of what the wine maker puts in the bottle. Would you question the Science community because there is a lack of diversity in the field of Astro Physics?? The question itself is completely irrelevent, and I think the only reason it was brought up was to get people like me to respond. lol

              • 1winedude5036


                I respectfully disagree that the questions are irrelevant. We shouldn't, in my view, simply accept an assumption that there's nothing wrong with a lack of diversity unless we ask ourselves why and are comfortable with the answers that we come up with…

  • Ed Thralls


    I would like to comment, Joe, on the more light-hearted side of your assertion that white-people can't dance… while, the amplitude of my vertical leap is much less than Harrelson (and most certainly Snipes), I can cabbage-patch or smurf with the best of 'em — do the kids still do this?

    Seriously, though, very well written post and certainly something to discuss and help change if it needs changing, for example, if there is some sort of force preventing it… otherwise, I am a believer that in some cases you cannot force such things.

    Also, from what perspective are you proposing the change? 1) from the wine business perspective in a way to enlargen the demographics and market in which to sell more wine or 2) from the african-american perspective where there has been some obstacle preventing them from breaking into the business?

    While certainly the statistics are there, I just don't see the "obstacle"…

    • Evan Dawson


      I agree with this. It's important to have our eyes open to reality, but we can't mold the world into perfect demographics to fit our idea of how it should be. There is nothing at all preventing black people from drinking wine, making wine, etc. So addressing the disparity needs one of two things:

      1) A creative, new idea, or

      2) Nothing.

      Joe, what inspired you to write this post? Is there a personal story or connection? Maybe that would help elucidate things. Cheers!

      • 1WineDude


        In terms of inspiration, this is a topic that's been on my mind for some time (two years or more), but I just never got around to discussing in the blog forum. Speaking personally, there are black people in my family so I suppose that in some way this has engendered a sense in me that I need to help point out 'mismatches' in diversity when I notice them.

    • 1WineDude


      There was a dance called Smurf? Must have missed that one.. :-)

      I'm not sure there's an obstacle per se – it just appears that little has been done to expand diversity in the field of winemaking, which could prove to be an issue as the ethnic background of the people making wine starts to diverge more and more significantly from the ethnic backgrounds of those who are drinking wine (over time, of course).

  • Lenn Thompson


    Joe: I don't think that anyone would argue that there is a lack of ethnic/cultural diversity in the wine world.

    That said, it's not as though there is a conspiracy to keep non-whites out of winemaker roles. That's not your assertion, is it?

    This isn't the NFL. There needn't be a "Rooney Rule" to make sure that minorties are interviewed for winemaking jobs. Or am I wrong? Is there a large African-American and Latino/Latina group that wants to be making wine that is finding it impossible to do so? I guess I can't say for sure.

    As for hurting the industry in the future. When you buy/taste wine…do you really think "Hey, this wine was made by a white guy?" Will African-American wine consumers eventually only drink wine made by people of their same background? I dunno if I can make that leap. Most wine lovers I know care about the wine being good above all else.

  • Bryan


    This topic can be summed up in one Seinfeld inspired question.

    "What's the deal with all these white winemakers?"

    Now discuss.

    • 1WineDude


      Yet more proof that I'm in desperate need of an editor!

  • Larry Chandler


    Over time, this will change. You can't force it. People become winemakers because of their passion for it. You can't magically create that passion. The African-American community has not, for many reasons, consisted of many wine lovers. Economics, tradition, etc. all play a part, as does advertising. As that changes, so will this community appreciate fine wine more. And out of that group will emerge men and women with a passion for it. And then you will see more African Americans enter the field. And as more African Americans drink wine, many will seek such winemakers, which will entice more African Americans to make wine.

    Changes like this happen slowly. Winemaking is hard work, both in the vineyards and in the cellar. People do it because of a love for it. The economics of it are not great, unless you become a star winemaker.

    When I first started selling wine, there were few women wine salespeople, and just about none on the retail floor. Over time that changed. I don't know the proportion of women in wine now, but it's way up from when I started.

    And as far as millenials go, they may respond to advertising that appeals to a diverse community. That perhaps will be the fastest way to change the demographics of wine drinkers. This will not only benefit African Americans, but will benefit the wine industry as a whole as a new audience for their products develops.

  • Hardy / Dirty


    The International Society of Africans in Wine would be a good place to check in with on future posts-

    http://isawfoundation.org

    Their focus is on South Africa, but they are supporting and promoting diversity in winemaking and have a great network of producers.

  • Wine conscience


    Interesting conversation. In theory, I agree that diversity is a concern in any field of work. That being said, as a woman, I have never felt that wines produced by women are any more relevant to me, nor have I suffered from the predominance of male winemakers. And I actually pay attention to winemakers' names and backgrounds, whereas the average consumer likely does not. Just as we are relatively disconnected from the source of our food, we are also quite distanced from those who make our wines (at least to the level of knowing their gender or race). As a result, I'm not sure I share your concern about the risks to the industry of a relatively homogenous cohort of winemakers. My bigger concern is the trend toward many wineries using the same batch of winemakers, many of whom share similar approaches and styles of winemaking. When a Pinot starts tasting like a Zinfandel, we know we are in trouble.

  • Dylan


    I've done some research on the topic and with the exception of the hispanic community (they prefer both), Millennials prefer to be identified by their subcultural activities, not their ethnicity. I don't see the industry suffering due to a lack of ethnic diversity on par with our generation, however it could lend itself to fall flat in not meeting the distinct lifestyles of Millennials.
    Where and how does a wine brand fit into their life in a relevant way?

  • 1WineDude


    Thanks all for the great comments.

    There's been a bit of questions here, on twitter, etc., asking what I was trying to achieve with this post. The answer is really as simple as highlighting the topic, and hopefully generating discussion about it by smart and talented people. Which is exactly what's been happening – thanks!

  • Les Haughton


    What I think is very interesting is that African Americans overwhelling own the cognac market ( cognac is made fron grapes). This is is huge marketing opportunity…I drink lot's of wine..been to Napa big opportunity for winemakers

  • Paul in Boca


    This diatribe makes no sense to this Boomer. Do you propose forcing or mandating minorities to become wine makers? Are you going to propose the same for, say, yachting, or mountain climbing? What about in the other direction, requiring the NBA to mandate a certain percentage of Caucasians to be starters? I have been selling wine since 1982 as a supplier, a wholesaler, and at retail, and never has this question been posed. I think our efforts are best directed at increasing wine consumption. How about this: require, at the age of 10, every child in America to drink a glass of wine with lunch and dinner? You associate wine with food and you take away the mystique of alcohol. Really, who cares who or what makes the wine we are drinking?

    • 1WineDude


      Hi Paul.

      I propose only that the wine industry in America needs to take a harder look at the lack of diversity, and ask themselves why it's the case, and think about what it might potentially mean for the future of the industry. I'd call it more of a lament than a diatribe (if you want a diatribe, see my rants about Robert Parker's mention of bloggers in the latest Wine Advocate…).

      I think you're onto something in terms of introducing alcohol to minors in a responsible way, by the way (for some reason, even bringing that up in America is taboo)…

  • Matt Reid


    Reading the post it seems you are using the terms winemaker and winery owner interchangeably. I grant that a few winery owners serve as their own winemakers. I further grant that there are very few winemakers or winery owners who are not white. However, to the extent that anyone is looking for a solution, the distinction is important. Most winery owners achieved that position by one of three means: they inherited the winery, they got rich and decided to spend their dough on a winery, or they became the head of a CEO of a winery-owning corporation. Most winemakers achieved their position by a combination of working their way up through the cellar, pursuing an education in winemaking, the drive and business savvy to start their own winemaking business, or by being raised in a winemaking family.

    I hope you can see that all of these routes to the two distinct positions, winemaker and winery owner, are different, and that strategies to boost non-white participation in the industry will necessarily differ as well, depending on what route and what end you are trying to promote.

    • 1WineDude


      Good distinction, Matt – thanks for pointing that out.

      I think the lack of diversity is potentially troubling for both positions in the U.S., but I agree that they're distinct at that furthering diversity in both might require different plans of action from the wine industry.

  • Jerry


    The last time I checked wine originated from people of French and Italian ethnicity, but I must inform you I have common sense and not many people these days don't. This article is just another typical idiotic opinion that isn't in tune with reality. Hey author I don't see many Japanese, Korean, or Turkish winemakers what can we do about that? Nothing unless THOSE people want to be winemakers. Seriously do you know that yes 99.9% of winemakers are white, but yet 99.9% of wine industry workers are mexican? Yeah try to spend just a little more time researching how it really is in this industry before writing ignorant articles…it's an insult to us hard working industry professionals. By the way the people that are actually doing the winemaking aren't necessarily the "white folk" so get your facts straight.

    • 1WineDude


      Strong stuff, Jerry.

      I'm sure that the topic could have been researched more deeply, but I'm also sure that I didn't treat it cursorily or without any research. I hope you'll be back to the blog and read some of the other material before totally writing it off as uninformed, just as I hope that ultimately the body of work here can speak for itself in terms of its contribution to the world of wine.

      Anyway – thanks for voicing your opinion.

  • hangover cure


    That Franklin T shirt is AWESOME. Love AD, can't wait for the movie.

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks – I couldn't resist using that pic…

  • Gregg Burke


    Give me a break! Lack of diversity in winemakers, really do you think anyone cares? Afraican Americans may have a small representation, but what about Latino? I realize that they are no longer a minority in Cali but I think they count. Sadly the numbers of AA wine drinkers is still very small. I own a wine shop so I would love if everyone no matter ethnicity drank wine. Seriously it sounds like more liberal white guilt. The reason their is not that many AA winemakers is that there are not that many AA interested in that line of work. So give up this silly race nonsence. After all there is only one race…. human.

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Gregg. I don't think that too many people care. But I think that they should care.

      Not about what ethnicity has made a wine, but about why one ethnic group is so over-represented in the industry. For me, it's less about guilt (though I suppose it could be a factor, even if a subliminal one) and more about questioning a situation that seems to otherwise be ignored.

  • Joel


    Awful lot of white people commenting on this article…just sayin'

    ;-P

    • 1WineDude


      Man, I was just thinking the SAME thing! :-)

      • Jon


        Now if There is a lack of diversity in The Wine makers, what about a lack of diversity of the people reading Wine Blogs!!! WE SHOULD INVESTIGATE!!!!!! LOL! :)

        • 1winedude5036


          Now here's one I can agree on…

  • Richard


    I wish I hadn't had such a big meal and so much wine. I wish I wasn't feeling so lethargic. I wish I could respond to this post with more gusto and verve. I wish diversity was actually important in the quality of a given product. I wish folks wouldn't put such a high price on diversity at the expense of ability or having the best qualifications. I wish that this article was written by a disenfranchised African American wannabe winemaker who just couldn't get into the biz because of his color. I wish, outside of a marketing aspect to sell more wine to non-whites, I could see your point. I wish we could all just get along. I wish, and I mean this with all sincerity and respect, I was as prolific and thoughtful a blogger as you are. Cheers!

    • 1WineDude


      And I wish that could get hundred new readers like you, bro!

      Cheers!

  • AHunt


    I think Joe makes a very interesting point about the lack of African Americans in the wine business. I'm in agreement that the industry will be better off when African Americans realize that making good wine is not just for Whites. However, Blacks must educate themselves about the wine industry in order to appreciate it's simple sophistication. The wine industry has a perception of being expensive and difficult which make it unattractive to African Americans. I agree that the new generation of wine drinkers will be diversity thinkers which could possibly open up doors for African American winemakers. Blacks interested in the wine business may be able to relate better to this new generation of wine drinkers.

    • 1WineDude


      "The wine industry has a perception of being expensive and difficult which make it unattractive to African Americans." – Here's to all of us changing that perception for the better. Cheers!

      • Joel


        To be honest Joe, that quote is the most offensive & ignorant thing I've seen in a long while.

        • 1winedude5036


          Assuming you're referring to this one: "The wine industry has a perception of being expensive and difficult which make it unattractive to African Americans."

          Got to admit, I found it odd to single out any one group… certainly a perception of high prices and difficulty is going to turn off most people regardless of race…

          • Joel


            That'd be the one. Exactly my point. You know what else is expensive and difficult? College…

            To say something like that is "ignorant" of a whole host of sociological factors let alone the industry itself ignoring that demographic, which is what I think the point everyone is missing is.

            I don't think "A Walk In The Clouds" or "Sideways" or any other movie made around wine ever in the history of movies ever targeted an African American audience. The "perception", which is wholly controlled by the marketing departments of wine companies (the bigger the more influential), is that its a product for wealthy white people. Those who have targeted African Americans (some Sparkling wines come to mind) have done quite well.

            If it looked like a product for African Americans and not a product specifically for white Americans then more black americans would be more involved. "Difficulty" is not a factor. Neither is a perception of "expensive".

            Right now its a part of white American culture, just as hip-hop is a part of black american culture. Doesn't mean it purposely excludes whites from hip-hop, its just a complex sociological question.

            Would making wine be better if more blacks were doing it? Honestly, even I don't see how. They go to the same colleges, learn the from the same books, get mentored by the same existing wine makers, and contrary to what some might think, face the same difficulties that white wine makers go through. Maybe I don't know enough about wine making to know what sublties blacks might change to inject their culture into the process in a way that is unique to them and therefore improve on a process that has been dominated by a single race.

            Diversity is good and if the practice of wine making were designed to exclude then I'd have a whole lot to say on the matter. There may be subtle things going on – less financial backing for black owned wineries or wine makers, fewer meetings with certain buyers, etc… – that are born of personal biases, but I can tell you thats nothing we haven't seen before. This country is evolving but we're going to face that everywhere, not just in the wine industry.

            Is the wine industry suffering from a lack of diversity? Only in that the perception is of an industry that is less open to others (everything looks targeted to rich white people) and changing that would likely open up a broader audience to make more money. But not in the quality of the wine being made.

            • Jon


              Cheers Joel…. Very well put!!!!

            • AHunt


              Hi Joel, It's taken me this long to reply to your comment about my comment "The wine industry has a perception of being expensive and difficult which make it unattractive to African Americans." I take it that your point is anything worthwhile is expensive and difficult. However, I thought the discussion was about more African-American winemakers and winery owners, not the consumption of wine by African-Americans. Because if you believe that African-Americans can compete in the wine industry as easy as Whites, then I surely disagree. Competing in the wine industry is also expensive and difficult for Whites. So, with that I shouldn't have to explain my point any further. Plus, It would make me more winded. But that's my point!!

              • 1WineDude


                This post has received some criticism as being far from my clearest statement on the blog, and I think that's deserved. Having said that, I can honestly say that I've got not idea what you're saying in this comment…

              • AHunt


                Let me see if I can make it any clearer. Your statement on your blog was inquiring why there aren't more African American winemakers and would it be better for the wine industry. I meant to reply to Joel's post since he claimed my comment was ignorant as to why I felt there aren't many African American winemaker's in the wine industry. As a matter of fact, when he first commented on my comment, you didn't even know if he was commenting on my comment or yours. But, let me make my self clear. There aren't many Black winemakers in the wine industry because of the difficulty of competing and being successful in the industry. How clearer can I be. Blacks will have to enter the wine industry like they have in other arenas where they have been misrepresented. (Jackie Robinson – MLB, Michael Jackson – MTV, Williams Sister, Arthur Ashe – Tennis, Tiger Woods – Golf. The ultimate was President Barrack Obama becoming the first African American President of the United States.

              • 1WineDude


                Thanks for clarifying. What do you think are the barriers for AAs that make getting into the wine trade more difficult for them? (I'm not saying that they're aren't any, or that your opinion isn't right, I'm just curious as to what you think they are). Cheers!

  • Confused&Approved


    You're right Joe here's to more white rappers.

    Really? Come on what's your point? I need more African American hockey players too. How often are you in CA? How often are you in a wine producing region where the majority of the people there are white. Show me a wine region with more black people and I will introduce you to more black wine makers.

    • 1WineDude


      Good point. In terms of how often I'm in a U.S. wine region where the majority of people who are in positions of power at a winery are white, that's pretty much every wine region I've visited in the U.S….

      • Jon


        If they grew grapes in Detroit, Miami, Los Angeles, Queens or South Chicago, I promise you'd see more Minority Wine Makers and Vineyard owners. ;)

        • 1winedude5036


          Uhm… just…. No.

  • Patrick Llerena


    Latino Winemaker, here!

    • 1WineDude


      Hey man!

      Would love to know your story in terms of how you got into the industry, etc. Would add some interesting perspective to all of this.

      Cheers!

  • Erika


    As a millennial I would agree with the points made that we're used to diversity and see it as a positive thing, yadda yadda yadda but I don't think that has anything to do with wine drinking habits. As was touched on above, how many average wine drinkers actually know the winemaker of each bottle of wine they consume? I have to say, I don't think anybody cares. Yes millennials care about diversity in wine itself and are experimental but I don't think diversity of the winemaker means a thing. If more African American people want to make wine, who is stopping them? If more minorities make wine, cool. But I don't think it'll cause any kinds of seismic shifts in…. anything.
    All of that aside, people are scared to talk about race to cheers to you Joe, for putting this out there.

    • 1winedude5036


      Thanks for that – the topic is… sensitive!

  • Jo Diaz


    Joe, in 2002 I started the Association of African American Vintners. At the time, I put Mac McDonald at the helm of founding, because I wasn't quite sure how the world would accept a white woman starting something so ethnic. I've since found out that that didn't really matter… The bottom line was to unite a group of vintners to get them publicity. Within a year, when an AP story about them ended up going around the world, including seeing in in Malaysia, I knew I had accomplished my goal… which was to draw light upon this issue.

    I created the logo that still remains… It's an "A" followed by a "V" in a font that's no longer in my computer, so I can't even tell you what it is right now (done in 2002).

    After a year, I resigned, because my work was done as their executive director. http://www.aaavintners.org/ (Association of African American Vintners)

    One of the greatest lesson I had (and there were many) coming from that experience is that there's way more demand for their wine than there is supply. Once the world knew that they existed, managing the demands for them to do events was nearly impossible. Within the first year, these vintners could have each completely given their wineries away. They just don't produce enough to have a massive audience, which means they're not even really ready for prime time; however, they do exist and each year they continue to grow. Also, on that Website of who's who, you won't find all vintners of color. Some choose to not be associated with the potential of being pigeonholed as being an AAV, because they're crafting wine for all people, not just the African American Community.

    Why did I start this group, because as a white woman in the wine business, I'm very familiar with being in a minority, and I wanted to also – like you – shine light upon something not quite in balance. While they represent a minority, that's slowly changing, as the face of America is slowly changing. The story that I wrote ans was published in Wine Business Monthly at that time was "The Changing Face of the American Wine Industry For Every Macrocosm, There Is a Microcosm."

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks Jo!

    • 1winedude5036


      Jo – any thoughts on where the AAV is now in terms or their goals?

  • Another Joe


    Joe, very smart article. Listen, I'm all for diversity (millenial talkin'). I think Obama's election is historic and, in that respect, great for the country (don't get me started on some of the policy). However, I've always felt that singling-out any sort of ethnic group for preferrential treatment really perpetuates racism and inequality. If the ultimate goal is- in fact- EQUALITY, don't you agree that rational African Americans/minorities do not want to be singled out and treated differently, whether it be positively or negatively? I think as long as we make an issue out of the color of someone's skin; even let it into the argument, then we are perpetuating predjudice.

    Of course, I will never pretend to think I can put myself in the shoes of someone who has had to deal with the hardships of growing up in a minority. All I can do is voice my opinion, often echoing that of my minority friends.

    • 1winedude5036


      Thanks, Joe.

      The AA example is just that – an example. The point is more I think that those in power in terms of wine making and winery the industry are white…

  • vinman


    Unless you prove to me that there is a conscious effort to keep blacks out of winemaking, and I don't believe there is, why do look at this as a misalignment? It is sad to me first that you look at people's skin color first and second that you ask the wrong questions. Do you drive through Chinatown and feel that there should be more Hispanics living there to balance out the misalignment?

    • 1WineDude


      If I'm asking the 'wrong' questions, then what are the 'correct' questions?

      And why on Earth should we consider winemaking or winery owning "Caucasian Town"?? That doesn't make any sense to me whatsoever. Maybe it would make sense if winemaking was quintessentially a celebration of white cultural.

      It's not.

      Know what makes me sad? I'm beginning to think that wine world just isn't ready to look at this topic with a self-critical eye. That is sad, indeed.

      • Jon


        There is no Topic……. Dude… seriously… I've been in this business for YEARS! There are NO Questions that need to be asked. The more you force diversity on ANYTHING the more you separate people by race. The more you promote Affirmative Action… the more you SEPARATE people by race. By you stating that, we need more diversity in wine making, you are breaking down people according to race. We are all human Beings, weather we are white, black, brown, etc! Why does EVERYTHING constantly have to be about diversity. I understand if we are talking about representation in Congress or on the Supreme Court. They are representing the people of this country and there should be equal representations of the American public. But in Business, or in Scientific Research, or in ANY private sector operation, WHY should Anyone Force Diversity.

        I've discussed this issue at great length with many people including well educated African Americans. They ALL think this is totally Absurd. Here's some research I did for you… if you want to discuss.

        There is a real discrepency in the diversity of Dairy Farmers in the US, If you are a Dairy Farmer in this Country, there is a 95% chance that you are white…. is this a problem??? NO!!!!! Who cares who milks the cows!!!!!

        If you are a Physicist, Chances are you are white…… is this a problem??? NO!!!!! WHO CARES!!!!!!

        Same thing here, Think like a logical human being instead of forcing politically correct insane notions of FORCING diversity into every possible aspect of life!

        My Girlfriend is a HIGHLY educated woman in Coporate America, and I asked her about this topic, She is also, a VERY liberal Democrat, so I almost half expected her to agree with you. She said, This is an absolutely absurd assertion. Noone cares who makes the wine or owns the winery, little green martians could make the wine, and if it's good, I'll buy it!

        If you can't see that this is a completely absurd issue, then I'm sorry you have brainwashed into being so close minded. And unfortunately, I wont be reading a blog of someone so illogical and completely inane.

        • 1winedude5036


          Jon – I'm not saying that diversity should be forced on anyone, or on any industry.

          What I am saying is that 1) the AAVA seems to have failed in its mission, and the wine industry should be asking itself why, 2) we shouldn't assume that there isn't a problem when we see a lack of diversity.

          I think you're assuming that the situation is ok, and are assuming that I'm saying it's NOT ok. I'm not. I'm saying that it shouldn't be assumed that all is well until the industry asks itself why there is a lack of diversity and takes a stand on things either way.

          You could, in fact, be correct – but not talking about it doesn't automatically make it correct.

          • Jon


            Well, here's how I see it…. Where did wine come from… what is the Cultural Background of wine drinking??? It came from the Middle to Upper Class of Europe. The Ancient Greeks and Romans Made wine famous… they planted half of the grapes in Europe! Before them There was wine made in Egypt, Iran, and as far back as 7000 BC China they blended grapes into Rice wine. But through the middle ages and around 0AD Wine was the cultural norm in Europe! SO…. Into white culture, and Asian cuture as far back as 5000BC wine has been a part of socialization.

            And Why Shouldn't we assume there isn't a problem when we see a lack of diversity in something that diversity in itself dosen't make a difference. There's no reason for the industry to ask itself why there is a lack of diversity for the simple reason that people drink what they want for many reasons. I'm not racist by any way/shape/or form. But the simple fact remains, when Jay Z drinks Ace of Spades Champagne, the black community buys Ace of Spades. When Puffy advertised for Ciroc, the black community started buying more Ciroc. I don't think the lack of African american consumers in the wine business has anything to do with the lack of diversity in the wine makers or owners, it has to do with how wine is marketed. Where do you see wine ad's??? In Golf Week?? Well, Who are the majority of Golfers?? White Collar, White Males! If the Wine industry really feels a need to expand out it's sales base to increase sales to African Americans, it's all about Advertising.

            • 1winedude5036


              Totally agree that advertising is part of it. In that way, the wine industry is at serious risk of missing the boat unless they start to shift advertising towards a more diverse and increasingly more female audience – which means to me that diversity does make at least some sense in the industry, and not just in the marketing departments…

              • Jon


                Female Audience?? More women than men already drink wine!

              • 1WineDude


                Yes, and the demographic of those women are becoming increasingly less white!!

              • Jon


                Then…… Where is the big problem! lol… I totally agree with you!! Wine should be something that everyone should enjoy which is why I make my store so incredibly easy to navigate with tasting notes all over the place… which is why I teach wine classes… The wine market is expanding, sales are increasing, more wine drinkers are apearing, and/or moving from Arbor mist into real wine! That being said… the wine industry is booming in a sagging economy… why try to raise questions with a non broken, soaring industry! One of the top new wine makers in the world is 27 years old… the young population is making wine a part of their daily diet. I love it! I vote that we stop raising politically correct questions, for the sake of asking them, we all support the wine makers and vineyard owners no matter what racial background they have, and throw our support behind them. Not point them out for being a minority or not being a minority.

  • 1WineDude


    I should note that this post is also generating some great discussion over at the Wine Berserkers forum – worth checking out:

    http://www.wineberserkers.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&a

  • Another Joe


    Dang. My comment was much better, but I kept getting my wrist slapped for it being too long. D'oh!

    • 1WineDude


      Hmmm… can you post it in chunks?

      • Another Joe


        I could, but I really need to practice brevity. My blog post and comments can get long-winded!

  • lodiwino


    I know we don't know each other…..but how the hell did you get a picture of my wedding reception

    • 1WineDude


      At the advice of counsel, I decline to answer…

  • Jay


    Perhaps the issue here isn't necessarily diversity and the presence of differences in the winemaking community. Rather, it's the industry's poor record of inclusion and its challenge of fully embracing new associates, regardless of their ethnicity, or for that matter, other dimensions of culture that disengage us. I'm not sure Joe intended to polarize his readers by trivializing a purported crisis along the lines of a Palin-esque argument of "it's either this way or that," but simply pointed to a blunt statistic that isn't exactly trivial after all. If he's touched a nerve, it's because not only does the wine but also many luxury good industries need new leadership, visionaries, and artisans that the next generation of Millenials are looking for. On an optimistic note, here in Chicago, we're proud that an African-American winemaker, Brian Duncan, leads as the head wine director for Bin 36. While Duncan may be in that 1% that obviously needs to grow, it still gives us hope that we can turn that statistic around by encouraging all walks of life to embrace the joys and beauty of winemaking.

    • 1WineDude


      Jay – you nailed it. Thanks for this comment, it's pretty much exactly what I was going for, which was to highlight the situation and ask why, ask is this right, and not just assume it was ok until it was discussed openly. Really appreciate your thoughts!

  • Jay


    Let's also remember that Joe does have a sick sense of humor. It is blog for not so serious drinkers. I mean, Dokken and wine? Awesome. And the AD shirt is classic. Take that, Whitey!

    • 1WineDude


      Who, me? :-)

  • Willybuoy


    I knew this would happen the first moment I read it. Race equal controversy. Facts fade. Emotion grows. Kudos to 1Winedude for having the courage to breech the topic. I agree with his FACTS. And disagree with most of the negative emotion in the comments. Thank you

  • 1WineDude


    Thanks – interestingly, I've seen a couple of posts by other bloggers touching on this topic but it didn't raise anywhere near as much heat as my post did. But I'm just the angry East Coast guy… ;-)

  • Van Wijk


    Once again I have to tip my hat to the federal machine. The fact that so many whites view their own race with such naked contempt, to the point that any industry (or country) remaining majority Caucasian is seen as insidious and evil, speaks to the most wildly successful brainwashing program in human history.

    Speaking of facts, here's one for you. Non-white people feel not one iota of guilt for not being sufficiently inclusive toward people who don't look like them. In fact, they mostly see other races as potential rivals. This holy writ we call "Diversity," which we accept as strength and righteousness and goodness without ever explaining why, is a parlor game played by white liberals only. Everyone else agitates for their respective tribes.

    If you want to see the dividends of White Guilt, look to Rhodesia and South Africa. You'll forgive me if I continue to view this socially-engineered farce called "Diversity" with more than a little suspicion.

    • 1WineDude


      Van – gotta disagree on some of your points.

      As a white guy, I don't view my race with any contempt whatsoever.

      What I don't like is when an industry like wine, which has cross-race/cross-culture/probably cross-species (if we ever encounter intelligent alien life) potential doesn't reflect that potential. The question is not just what white people need to do in order to make the winemaking industry more diverse, but (more importantly) what other races aren't doing to be a part of it.

      I didn't wake up feeling guilty for being a white guy one day and write this post. I woke up wondering why there wasn't more diversity in the industry and (more pressingly) why no one is even talking about it. And since I write this post well over a year ago, almost nothing of newsworthiness has been discussed on this topic in the wine industry – so, I still (sadly) have the same opinion as when this was written.

      • Van Wijk


        "As a white guy, I don't view my race with any contempt whatsoever."

        You began your article with the oh-so conventional meme that white people can't dance (you even threw in an overbite for flavor). Since we've established that you accept stereotyping, will you now indulge in some negative stereotypes regarding other races? Or perhaps some of the more positive stereotypes regarding whites?

        We both know you won't. It's okay to make fun of whites, not okay at all to make fun of non-whites. Heads I win, tails you lose. That's the definition of contempt.

        "What I don't like is when an industry like wine, which has cross-race/cross-culture/probably cross-species (if we ever encounter intelligent alien life) potential doesn't reflect that potential."

        Meaning what, exactly? Are you one of these who thinks that, since blacks are 15% of the total population of America, they should represent 15% of every industry? And if they fail to make up said percentage of Industry X, should we maybe tweak society in various ways until we achieve the desired result?

        Time was when competence and passion were the driving force when choosing a vocation.

        "I didn't wake up feeling guilty for being a white guy one day and write this post. I woke up wondering why there wasn't more diversity in the industry and (more pressingly) why no one is even talking about it."

        Let's identify exactly what "Diversity" means. "Diversity" implies that there is something undesirable about having too many whites in Industry X, and that more non-whites are needed in order to solve this "problem." If having too many whites in Industry X is a problem, there must be something about white people overall that is undesirable. So to push for "Diversity" (and you push it strenuously) is to imply that whites are inferior in some way and should be largely replaced with non-whites in order for Industry X to be valid. This follows logically from the premise that began your article: any industry that is 99.9% Caucasian is irredeemably flawed.

        If you honestly didn't have a problem with white people, you wouldn't have a problem with them making up the vast majority of vintners. You're either being disingenuous or you're honestly unaware of your own conditioning.

        "And since I write this post well over a year ago, almost nothing of newsworthiness has been discussed on this topic in the wine industry – so, I still (sadly) have the same opinion as when this was written."

        Color me shocked. Sorry guy, the races are not all the same. They have different cultures, interests, values, and abilities. Winemaking is a White Thing. Deal with it.

  • James lesley


    What a dumb ass story!

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks for reading, James.

  • Huh?


    Anti-racism is a racist code-phrase for anti-white. The individual who wrote this column could have made the point about the scarcity of blacks in wine making without the racist anti-white jibes, but of course for the ignorant little white-hating bigots of the left it's never about helping minorities, it's always about hating whites. The scarcity of blacks in wine is just an excuse to vent his hatred. If you're so damned concerned about black wineries why don't take out a loan and fund one? P.S. – There's a direct causal relationship between the casual dehumanization of whites, such as in this article, and racist assaults against them on the street. P.P.S. – the idea that "millennials" will choose wine on the basis of the diversity of its producer is laughable.

  • 1WineDude


    Apparently I've made the "anti-diversity" watch lists?

    Sorry folks, I'm not gonna debate if we are so clearly on opposite sides of the lines – better we just agree that we won't agree.

  • James lesley


    I know, get all your friends together and go to those parts of town
    that you normally don't go to and organize a wine tasting event.
    That will really open your eyes.

    • 1WineDude


      Yeah, this comment back-and-forth is most definitely a bit hopeless…

  • John Valenty


    I guarantee that a black rapper will be starting a all-Moscato winery in the near future… Mark my words.

    • 1WineDude


      John – I look forward to trying that wine!

  • 1WineDude


    Thanks, Ed.

    Man, I had NO idea that dance was called Smurfing…!

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