Rising Black Voices in Wine - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Rising Black Voices in Wine

illustrations by Matt Williams

Tahiirah Habibi made news this spring when she posted a video recalling her experience with the Court of Master Sommeliers. She not only brought about institutional change in the way the group’s members use the term “master,” but also helped elevate the discussion about race in the wine community. At Wine & Spirits, our editors realized we knew many Black wine professionals, but we were not consciously aware of their struggles in the community.

We set out to open a conversation, starting with trailblazers like Dottie Gaiter, who hadn’t read a single Black voice in wine when she and her husband started their wine column for The Wall Street Journal in 1998. Veterans like Gaiter paved the way for the next generation in wine, who also shared their stories with us. In the 53 interviews we conducted, we heard many speak of having to be twice as good as their white peers to get recognition. Another recurrent theme was solidarity with other groups marginalized  in the wine business—women, other BIPOC and LGBTQ+ folks, and those with disabilities. But, by far, the most common theme, here in the words of NYC sommelier David Blackburn, was the importance of “seeing faces who looked like me” in the career he was undertaking. To all our colleagues of color: We see you, and the next generation can see itself in you.

We present here a small slice of the burgeoning Black wine community, broken into two groups. Click each heading to read more in depth about the featured individuals. On the pages linked below, the faces of the Trailblazers, those who have firmly established themselves in the wine community and are now mentors to the next generation, are depicted in photographs. The illustrations highlight that next wave, the Rising Black Voices in Wine, those whose impact is starting to resonate across our whole industry, and to the benefit of all.

Research on our Rising Black Voices in Wine was directed by Sydney Love and Susannah Smith, who contributed reporting along with Patrick J. Comiskey, Joshua Greene, Stephanie Johnson, Tara Q. Thomas and Corey Warren. Click here for the full list of those who contributed their experiences to this project.

Rising Black Voices in Wine. Upper row (left to right): Beth Baye, Justin Trabue, Kelly Mitchell, Larissa Dubose, Shakera Jones. Lower row: (left to right): Jahde Marley, Etinosa Emokpae

Media & Events


Julia Coney
Dorothy Gaiter
Sukari Bowman

Rising Voices

Larissa Dubose
Shakera Jones
Cha McCoy



Tahiirah Habibi
Zwann Grays
Tonya Pitts

Rising Voices

Etinosa Emokpae
Bianca Sanon



André Hueston Mack
Femi Oyediran
Derrick C. Westbrook

Rising Voices

Kilolo Strobert
Beth Baye

Sales & Marketing


DLynn Proctor
Carlton McCoy, MS
Lee Campbell

Rising Voices

Kelly Mitchell
Jahde Marley

Growing Grapes & Making Wine


Krista Scruggs
Mac McDonald
Brenae Royal

Rising Voices

Christopher Renfro
Justin Trabue
Michael McClendon

Giving & Getting Help

As the wine community works to support its BIPOC members, their efforts include funding scholarships for education and travel, and developing mentorship organizations and networking groups. Here is an ongoing list of those projects.

This story appears in the print issue of October 2020.
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