7 Black Sommeliers You Should Be Following On Instagram

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By: Portia Cole | Photo: @corkscrewsandcaramel

Sommelier: A trained and extremely knowledgeable wine professional who typically works in a fine restaurant, specializing in all aspects of wine service as well as wine and food pairing.

At this point, most of us have probably seen the movie Uncorked, an American drama on Netflix, that tells the story of Elijah (played by Mamoudou Athie), a passionate wine enthusiast who has aspirations of becoming a master sommelier. Every time he takes a sip of wine, he feels like he’s been given a liquid passport to places he’s never been. Elijah’s father prefers that his son take on the family BBQ business in Memphis, but eventually warms up to the idea of his son pursuing his passion of becoming a master sommelier in the end. 

If you’re anything like me, then you probably started purchasing wine with a different curiosity after watching this film. The textbook definition of sommelier makes the profession seem simple, but the role is anything but. Uncorked showed us that a sommelier isn’t someone who just works in a restaurant giving wine recommendations. Sommeliers or wine stewards are heavily trained to have a comprehensive knowledge of wines, vineyards, regions, subregions, and grapes. They are also expected to have expertise in storing, displaying, and purchasing wines. Sommeliers have a highly respected profession that is not for the faint of heart. There are only 230 people who have passed the intense master sommelier exam (the highest-ranking sommelier) with only three of them being African-American.

Not only was Uncorked brilliantly relatable and riddled with black colloquialisms, but the film made you reconsider everything you thought you knew about wine (I had no idea what tannins were until this film). The movie also got me thinking about all the Black sommeliers who have been glossed over through the years.

Are there any Black sommeliers changing the wine industry? Are there any Black sommeliers and wine educators who can guide us on how we can enjoy wine and not just drink it because it’s half off during happy hour? (Kidding, sort of.) One place to start to answer these questions is with Andre Hueston Mack.

Mack was the first African American to win the Best Young Sommelier in America title in 2003 and was runner up for Best Sommelier in North America in 2004. He was head sommelier for three years at one of New York’s four-star restaurants (there are only a few), Per Se, where he managed a 1800-selection of award-winning wines. Since then, he’s blazed a trail for other Black wine connoisseurs and has no intention on stopping. In 2007, Mack founded Maison Noir Wines, fulfilling his dream of becoming a winemaker and selling wine in 44 states and in 11 countries outside of the US. His goal is to make wine more accessible as he continues to make waves within the predominantly white sommelier community.

The wine industry has been so exclusive for so many years, it’s important to recognize that there are brown faces who are trying to educate, advise, and understand the value of their influence. Here are 7 sommeliers and wine educators to follow on Instagram:

1. Candace Lynn

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Candace Lynn (@wineitonme) on Jul 12, 2020 at 11:22am PDT

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Candace Lynn is an educator and passionate wine lover. Her Instagram posts break down what makes each glass of wine great and she does it in a way that even a wine newbie can understand. As she introduces herself on her page, she lights up as she explains why she’s studying to become a certified specialist of wine through the Society of Wine Educators. Lynn can also teach you how to enjoy a quality glass of wine while on a budget via her YouTube channel, Wine It On Me. If you like detail and want to know what notes work for your palate, she’s your girl!

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 2. Cortney McKenzie

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Cortney McKenzie | Sommelier (@corkscrewsandcaramel) on Jul 1, 2020 at 11:00am PDT

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This Afro-Latina from the Bronx is a certified sommelier who can explain why that grilled cheese sandwich pairs well with chardonnay and why oatmeal cookies make your taste buds dance with a tawny port. When Cortney McKenzie isn’t traveling, she’s blogging about how to choose the perfect wine for your meal. You can also check out what this sommelier is up to on her blog, Corkscrews and Caramel.

3. Diana Hawkins

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Diana Hawkins (@vinenoir) on Jun 7, 2020 at 4:08am PDT

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Diana Hawkins is a certified sommelier turned aspiring wine maker with a Masters in wine science. She realized her penchant for wine in college as she was studying digital electronics. Every week she’d crack open a bottle of random wine and drink it from a teacup. As she studied, her mind would focus less on the numbers and figures in front of her and more on the fact that this week’s cup of wine had more strawberry notes than blueberry. Today, Hawkins is an assistant wine maker in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

4. Larissa C. Dubose

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by TheLotus&TheVines🍇| Wine Clues (@lotusvinewine) on Apr 10, 2020 at 10:01am PDT

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This 10-year wine, spirits, and hospitality veteran enjoys educating black wine professionals. She’s a sommelier who believes that rosé isn’t seasonal and that food is always a good idea when having a glass of wine. Currently, Dubose is a Senior on Premise Manager for Fiji Water, JUSTIN, and Landmark Wineries in Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee. She’s also a key player for Black Wine Professionals, a resource for wine industry employers, gatekeepers, professionals, and the food and beverage community. If you want to see Dubose in action, tune into her Instagram live cooking and wine pairing class called “The Perfect Pairing”.

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5. Tish Wiggins

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Tish W aka Tish Around Town (@tisharoundtown) on Mar 1, 2020 at 2:51pm PST

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Tish Wiggins is a sommelier who loves to infuse her passion for wine with travel. Her day job as an IT Consultant hasn’t stopped her from creating her own brand (Tish Around Town) where she educates folks on wine and curates wine events. Wiggins’ taste in wine is just as fierce as her style, but there’s much more to her than what meets the eye. As a result of COVID-19, she’s created a fun and casual virtual space (Chat n’ Sip) for people to sip, socialize, and learn about wine.

6. Shauna Cooper & Shayla Smith

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by 🍷 Professional Wine Tasters 🍷 (@winespencer_) on Jun 5, 2020 at 7:16pm PDT

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Here’s an unexpected treat, a sommelier duo! Shauna Cooper and Shayla Smith will educate you on the flavors of different wines and on the origin of a wine’s name. These sisters encourage their followers to dig deeper when tasting wine and they encourage them to support Black owned winemakers. They also challenge brands who aren’t diverse in the wine marketplace. Cooper and Smith believe that there needs to be more Black winemakers in wine subscription boxes and more Black people in the ads for these subscription services. Their hope is that companies are currently thinking of ways to be more inclusive in their marketing because Black people drink wine too! Check out their site, winespencer.com, if you’d like for them to service your next event.

 7. Cha McCoy

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Cha McCoy, MBA|Wine Consultant (@cha_squared) on Jun 11, 2020 at 1:52pm PDT

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Cha McCoy is a hospitality consultant and event sommelier who offers virtual tastings. On her page, she talks about receiving wine certifications to enhance her knowledge for the benefit of her community. McCoy resides in New York where she spends her time building an even larger community that is serious about removing race, class, and gender as barriers to receiving superb hospitality or a decent glass of wine. McCoy is admirably bold in requesting the changes she’d like to see from current winemakers and she’s just getting started.  

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2 Comments

  1. So very, very happy to learn this information even though it is years later!!!

    I love the experience of enjoying different grapes from various regions. do continue to teach those who are interested to keep this important quality of natures true bounty going. thank you again, Peace.

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