There’s nothing like sitting down, kicking your feet up and enjoying a glass of wine. Although Black folks enjoy sipping on Merlot or Chardonnay as much as anyone else, we don’t often see our community boldy represented in the wine sector. Of the more than 11,000 wineries in the U.S., less than 1% of them are Black-owned. However, the ways in which we do navigate this industry are done with pride and vigor.
Throughout the month of February, EBONY is honoring untold histories that further illuminate the richness of our culture throughout our “Hidden Black History” series. This week, we focus on the impact that Black folks have had on the wine industry as winemakers and sommeliers.
OWN’s new drama series The Kings of Napa challenges the ways Black people have visually shown up in the wine industry. As ownership is integral to the stability and success of our community, the show focuses on the King family, who own a prestigious winery and their challenges to keep it afloat.
Writer and wine culture expert Chasity Cooper chatted with actress Ebonée Noel, who stars in the series as August King, about the show and about the Black community’s infiltration of the wine industry.
Kicking off the conversation, Cooper payed homage to the drip that Noel’s character August, flaunts throughout the series, further emphasizing the magnificence in the way the show takes up space in the conversation about wine.
And because there is so little Black representation of Black people in the wine space on television and in real life, it is crucial that any depictions on screen are both unique and intentional. In discussing the similarities between the actress and her portrayal of her character, Noel shared “August is really passionate about her job. She’s at brunch with her girls thinking about what’s next for the company. That’s sort of how I’ve approached my career. Anyone can tell you that in the beginning, right out of school, I was always asking ‘What can I do next? What are the little things that can set me a cut above the competition?’ So I connected to her passion right away.”
Noel also shared a few of her favorite types of wine for those of us who may be looking to try something new. “I won’t say that I am a wine aficionado but I definitely enjoy every Italian red I’ve ever had. I fell in love with wine on a trip to Italy so I’m a little bit biased; I have an emotional attachment. But the show helped me open up to the different types of wine and of drinking wine at different times than I would usually think to. Also, August’s big idea is dessert wines and I’ve never thought about this type before. It got me a little bit more curious to try that—and, even going to the store and seeing orange wines and wondering what that meant or taste like. This show has definitely made me more curious.”
Lastly, Cooper pressed the actress with a question that has crossed most of our minds: “Do the actors drink real wine on the set of the show?” Noel laughingly replied, “We’re doing take after take so they don’t really want us drinking real wine. So what we drink on the show is a blend of hibiscus tea and honey because it gives the same viscosity as wine.”
You can check out the full convo between the the two burgeoning wine aficionados below: