I’ve been writing this post since December 2019...
...in fact, I’ve been writing this in my head for many, many years. Now feels like the right time to say what’s on my mind: Why aren’t there more people who look like me at wine tastings?
I spent a fair amount of time on Blackout Tuesday refreshing my feed and hoping to see more wineries, merchants and distributors acknowledge the message that the world is shouting...screaming...crying.
In this day and age where, for once, we all have something in common whilst we deal with a viral pandemic that doesn’t discriminate...they failed. In this day and age where businesses are desperately looking to reach out and connect with consumers...they failed. At a time where the wine industry is desperate to stay afloat after 2 crippling months without local wine sales, a time where they could connect with a demographic that’s always felt dismissed by the wine world...they failed.
I’m fully aware that I can’t possibly know the story behind why someone, who regularly posts everything else, wouldn’t choose to show support for the end of centuries of horrific disregard for human life.
Yet. It was one black block.
And that black block represents so much in this South African wine landscape - the hesitancy to commit to change, to admit to not doing our best in the past. The hesitancy to look towards a better and more inclusive way forward.
It’s the reason why we don’t have more black owned wineries, why we don’t have more black winemakers, and the reason why there aren’t more people who look like me at wine tastings.
I found myself googling black Masters of Wine, black Master Sommeliers, black winemakers. It's something that I’ve always resented having to do. Your work, your talents, your passion should speak for yourself, regardless of race. Yet, because we're not all afforded equal opportunities, I find myself assigning labels to distinguish persons who've attained qualifications and achievements that are undoubtedly historically skewed in one tonal direction. Labels belong on wine bottles, not people.
This isn’t supposed to be a rant that references South Africa’s troubled past and how we’ve allowed it to creep into our present. It’s a call to accept our past mistakes and acknowledge the wrongdoings, so that we can work together to do better in the future.
With these thoughts churning before bedtime, I refreshed my instagram page one more time. And after a trying day, I smiled. I saw one of my favourite winemakers post their support. And then another. And another. When my absolute favourite posted their black square in the middle of the night after a full day of packing orders, it brought tears of joy and relief to my eyes.
These are the winemakers, wineries and stores that I’ll be visiting. And at the very least, supporting them is one way of ensuring that there won’t be fewer people who look like me at the next wine event.