In the wine industry, you'll probably find very few faces of color. In fact, in the Black community wine etiquette and know-how isn’t so common.
With the exception of moscato - which people of color are three times more likely to drink than Whites - there’s little education of the art and culture of wine. There’s far more to wine than your usual moscato and chardonnay, and sadly, if you were to place a person of color in front of an extensive wine list, they’d more than likely be intimidated and overwhelmed by the choices.
Wine expert Charles Springfield is hoping to change that painful reality. After starting his own lifestyle and marketing company, The Life Stylings of Charles Springfield, and working at a host of wine boutiques in New York City, the 39-year-old began to develop a deeper appreciation for wine. That admiration became the catalyst for his wine division, The Wine Stylings of Charles Springfield. As a certified sommelier (the proper name for a wine specialist) by the Sommelier Society for America, Springfield is using his expertise to both educate and eliminate the intimidation of wine, particularly for people of color.
“We have to play catch up to our European counterparts because a lot of us didn’t grow up with wine,” Springfield tells Centric. “We grew up on milk, juice and soda, so when we start drinking wine in the United States legally at 21 there’s a lot of catch up and a lot of appreciation that we haven’t had. For Europeans, as they’re kids they drink wine at the dinner table with the family. It might be watered down a bit, but they do.”
Though wine was always a big part of his life growing up, Springfield - who teaches classes around the city - says the main mission for his company is to “demystify” wine and make it more comfortable and approachable, and empower people to be able to navigate it more successfully.
“Wine shops can be very intimidating because there’s so much inventory on the shelf and a lot of times there’s not enough information about the wines,” he says.
Springfield suggests you try out wines around $10. If you don’t like it, he says, you can use it to cook or make sangria. He also disputes the idea that more expensive wine means it’s a better wine.
“Just because you have a [more expensive] chardonnay it doesn’t mean it’s the best. You have to think about what the flavor profiles are and if those speak to you, if you like those kind of things,” he says.
Ultimately, Springfield says, wine is a personal experience. He likens it to the same individuality we express in the way we dress and the food we like. And while traditional no-no’s within the wine community are changing such as wine and food pairings, thanks to the rising trend of culinary fusion, there are still general rules to wine like not putting ice in your glass to make it colder.
“It will actually dilute the flavor,” he says. “It will be cold but you won’t get the full essence of what the wine is trying to tell you. I suggest you keep in the refrigerator longer or give it an ice bath or freeze some grapes and put them in the glass.”
As for the basics, Springfield suggests that aside from experimenting beginners should look into taking some of his wine courses.
“My whole goal was to develop a class or curriculum where it’s a little bit more engaging and relaxing. That approach allows you to hone in on the sight of the wine, the smell, the taste,” he says. “Wine is one of those simple luxuries of life just like food. It makes you feel good, it’s comforting, it enhances moments and situations. If you get down to the essence of wine and really get to analyze it and talk about it, it becomes engaging and sensual and really passionate.”
For more information on The Wine Stylings of Charles Springfield, visit www.thewinestylings.com.
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