Drink Consciously

The complicated relationship between BIPOC and the alcohol industry.

The Sleazy and Spectacular History of Malt Liquor By Dave Infante

I grew up during the Hip Hop era of the 40oz Malt Liquor craze, the follow-up to Billy Dee Williams’s famous ads highlighting the power of Colt45 and promoting its virtue of “working every time.” What if Billy Dee Williams had endorsed Beaujolais instead of Colt 45? What if Jay-Z came out with an affordable Cava, or Dawayne Wade chose to invest in a South African wine Co-op? Are we too conditioned to expect anything more from our celebrity sponsors than overpriced or worst products that are harmful to our community? The complicated relationship between BIPOC and alcohol has a long history. African Americans’ infinity for champagne dates back to the roaring 20s and has continued in the era of Hip Hop. Yet, up until recently, African Americans did not own any Champagne houses. African American adults are 60 percent more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes by a physician, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. Yet, the promotion of sweet wines toward African Americans is a major problem.

Enduring Legacy

The root cause unfortunate relationship between BIPOC and wine stems from the lack of historical recognition of their long history with the product. Most of us are unaware that wine started in our ancestor’s backyard. Many dispute the origins of the first wine drinkers focusing on the country of Georgia and neglecting the contributions of Northern Africa. The monopoly on products originating in West Asia, including the Caucasus Mountains, Zagros Mountains, Euphrates River Valley, and Southeastern Anatolia. This area spans a large area that includes the modern-day nations of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, northern Iran, and eastern Turkey, Wine Folly suggests.

Taking Responsibility

In my last post, I discussed the systematic racism prevalent in the wine industry. In the wake of George Floyd many stepped up to the plate to voice their concerns, but it’s not time to take our foot off the gas. According to Nielsen, with African Americans spending $1.2 trillion annually, brands have a lot to lose if they don’t engage Black consumers. Diversity shouldn’t be the only goal. Looking at the industry as a whole, BIPOC needs to be curating its own brands. However, these brands don’t need to all be super-premium or sweet wines but range the gambit in price and style.

Going Forward

The good news is we can point to several pioneers leading the way. Winemakers like Phil Long, who is the president of the Association of African American Vintners (AAAV) and the founder of Longevity Wines, teamed up with Bronco Wine Company, and his exceptional valued wines can be found across the country. If something stronger is more your thing Olehna: A Heritage-driven Tumeric Spirit from Chef Ravi Kapur might be just the thing. Chef Kapur highlights his mixed ethnicity as the inspiration for the spirit brand that ties his Indian, Hawaiian, and Chinese ancestry. My personal favorite is Raekwon from the Wu-Tang Clan has a high-quality sparkling Lambrusco called Licataa. More efforts like these are what the industry needs.


Published by Beau K Hurley

Author, Photographer, and Designer Legends of the Swag is where all these ambitions come together.

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