Angela McCrae Is Finding Passion And Purpose In Advocating For Black Women In Wine

Angela McCrae Is Finding Passion And Purpose In Advocating For Black Women In Wine

There's no denying that Black women are making their mark in the wine industry. From Issa Rae's Viarae prosecco to the McBride Sisters' Black Girl Magic rosé, we're slowly but surely staking our claim in the multi-billion-dollar market. And while it's great that we are growing consumers and builders of wine brands, there's still a lot more work to be done when it comes to volume and representation.

With only 1% of wineries Black-owned, and only 12% women-owned, many enthusiasts, connoisseurs, activists, and entrepreneurs are rallying in a collective effort to not only diversify the representation of what it means to know, love, and consume wine but also how to fight the longstanding barriers of funding, access, discrimination, and cultural division that exist.

Angela McCrae, founder of the media platform Uncorked And Cultured, has turned her love for travel and wine into a major career pivot toward fulfillment and advocacy. "I actually got started in the wine business after a trip to South Africa in February 2020. A friend of mine scheduled wine tastings, and the very first we went to was a Black-woman-owned winery and vineyard called Seven Sisters," McCrae shared.

"I got a chance to meet the owner, as well as a woman who was working on transformation efforts within the South African wine industry to bring equity to Black wine producers. I was inspired."

Courtesy of Angela McCrae

Finding Her Wine Career Niche Within Challenges

Upon coming back to the U.S. and in the midst of the beginning of total global lockdown, McCrae, like millions of other women, began to strategize her next move. "I didn't know what was going to happen next with my career," she said. "I reached out to a friend of mine who I knew doing a lot of work in wine, and low and behold she was doing ambassador work through a very large production company based in Napa Valley. I became an ambassador and quickly started building my clientele."

At the time, she had been doing grassroots work on documentary projects to amplify Black culture, voices, and history. She'd also previously worked at NBCUniversal in creative production and found joy volunteering in the diversity and inclusion space, helping to push DE&I initiatives within the company's employee resource groups (ERGs). "I found my passion points with those experiences."

"Being resourceful, having an entrepreneurial spirit, building communities, having a background in content creation, and being fearless has been really helpful in the work I'm doing now."

She initially launched Uncorked And Cultured as a Facebook group where Black wine industry leaders, lovers, and producers could network before deciding to expand it to a full content site in 2020. "At the time, there weren't a lot of Black-owned publications that were amplifying what was happening in the movement from a holistic standpoint." Her platform is now part of the super-successful Black Owned Media Equity And Sustainability Institute (BOMESI) collective, an organization that she says was essential in the growth of her platform, affording her the opportunity to expand her in-house team and her audience.

McCrae also started working with Dr. Monique Bell, author of the "2023 Terroir Noir Report: Study of Black Wine Entrepreneurs," and partnered for the State of Black Wine Business Summit. "When the report came out, I knew as a media professional the value of data and the value of, when telling stories, having the numbers behind it." She and Bell collaborated to launch the Sip Consciously Directory, highlighting Black wine producers, distributors, and retailers.

Angela McCrae, director, and Chrishon Lampley, vice president, of the Association of African American Vintners, at WSWA Access Live conference in Orlando.

Courtesy of Angela McCrae

Leveling Up In The Wine Industry

While balancing the duties of her media platform and wine-related projects, she also serves as executive director of the Association of African American Vintners, a nonprofit that works to increase diversity in the industry, boost awareness of Black winemakers, and offer resources to students from underrepresented minority groups pursuing wine industry careers.

"It's been an interesting ride. I never would have imagined I'd be leading an organization helping women winemakers and wine professionals. Our organization was founded in 2002 with just four members, and now we have over 200." The organization is inclusive of Black winemakers and professionals as well as allies from diverse backgrounds who support the foundational mission.

"One of my biggest accomplishments as an executive director is developing a program called the AAAV Wine Entrepreneurial Grant. It's my baby because it allowed us to be able to give $5,000 to five entrepreneurs for the first time in the organization's history."

With the funds, McCrae added, the entrepreneurs selected could "slowly but intentionally scale their businesses," using the funds for vital business functions like hiring sales brokers to get their brands in stores, updating their websites or social media strategies, or upgrading their packaging for wine products.

Pushing For More Representation Of Black Women In Wine

For Black women who want to pursue careers in wine or launch wine brands, McCrae is all for exploration, research, and networking. "First thing you gotta do is drink the wine, and not just what's in the grocery stores. You gotta be a student of wine. Try what's new and unique, at different price points. Ask questions when you go into a wine shop or wine tasting. Take a few courses or even get a certification. I'm certified level 1 with the aspirations of going up to level 2 and possibly going beyond that. Wine education is needed, respected, and appreciated. People invest thousands of dollars and many years of their lives to be an expert in this field, so that's definitely a requirement."

She also recommends volunteering in order to get hands-on experience within wine companies, events, or other spaces where industry leaders are. "Most of our producers in this country are small, family-run businesses, and they can always use the help and support. Go to your local wineries and ask if you can work in their tasting room on a weekend. Show up and ask questions. Be available to meet and network."

McCrae even recently added yet another unique career experience to her plate: serving as an apprenticeship with Silver Oak Cellars, a leading California wine producer. Through the program, she's enjoying her own immersive experience in everything from marketing to the actual grape harvesting process.

And pursuing a career in the industry doesn't end with being a wine producer or brand entrepreneur. "Look into other ways to get into wine like the retail side, or most importantly, the distributor side because they're the gatekeepers," she added. "The more we're part of the distribution pipeline, and the more we diversify that, the more equity can potentially trickle down to make the wine brands be on par [with] what the consumers look like."

For more on Angela McCrae's journey in the wine industry, follow her on Instagram. You can also find news and other stories linking Black culture, entrepreneurship, and wine via Uncorked And Cultured.

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Featured image courtesy of Angela McCrae




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