Updated: Jun 16, 2020
Change and integration in the South African wine trade has been slow, but there is a growing number of BIPOC personalities in the drinks sector that we should be backing and supporting now more than ever.
It’s impossible to send out a newsletter this month without acknowledging the current global sentiment right now. The murder of George Floyd in the USA has again brought to light the many injustices black men and women experience on a daily basis, not only in the States, but around in the world. Both violent riots and peaceful protests have taken to the streets across major cities around the globe, and it’s been remarkable to note the reaction of many.
Social media is drowning in content right now. Every time I pick up my phone, there is another video, another picture, another plea. I feel overwhelmed by a lot of the information I’m digesting. However, it is too easy to put our phones down and turn our eyes away because it’s “too much” to handle. No, I think now is the time to feel uncomfortable, and to have those conversations you don’t want to have, and to stare down the awkward truths that are many others everyday realities.
Someone recently pointed out, it’s frustrating that it takes events half-way around the world to spark a reaction to domestic issues in South Africans. Inequality and wealth disparity is immense. There seems to be a complacency, and an apathetic acceptance of “it is what it is”. But how long do we keep making it tomorrow’s problems and continue going about our days, unaffected?
I look around me within the wine trade, and sadly admit that it is still very much dominated by middle-class, white males. It hasn’t changed for millennia, and it’s a recurring theme that plays out in every major wine region across the world. I’ll be the first to raise my hand and acknowledge that I have no doubt directly benefited from this patriarchal tumble dryer we find ourselves being tossed about in. I attended an elite private school, and it has certainly afforded me privileges that many people of colour may never in their lives experience.
However, the first buds of transformation are beginning to burst, and although slow, it is very exciting. Domestically, we’re seeing consumer behaviour changing, both in fine wine, and in the hip and natural scenes à la Publik. Ultimately, we as consumers need to drive the paradigm shift with our buying habits too. It’s too comfortable to continue drinking the same kit over and over again, because “we know what we like”. The world of wine is vast and immensely diverse, and that's the charm and beauty of it. We as South Africans should be celebrating that diversity, as well as the people that produce them. We need to support the South African BIPOC wine producers, wine makers, distillers, brewers and sommeliers. These people are the bright future that can truly propel a changed and integrated industry forward, and we need to dedicate more of our money, time and energy to shouting about their achievements and influence.
In the next journal post, you will find a list of these people, as well as the brands and links to their Instagram handles and websites. I hope this can become a working database and resource that is constantly updated and grown. Follow them, support them, drink their wines and dine at their institutions. Now is the time for us to start by making real change.