By Matt Frazier
Greetings from the Vino Papi of Brooklyn! I’m a wine geek and meme specialist who helps his friends avoid the woes of a bad bottle.
My journey as a Black man seeking a deeper understanding of the wine industry has been transformative. I got my start at Simple Syrup Wine and Spirits in Crown Heights, and continued at Fermented Grapes in Prospect Heights.
After 3 years in the game, I’ve accumulated a mental rolodex with regions and styles of wines that will keep any home bar shimmering.
Here are my tips to expanding your wine experience.
Shopping can be intimidating, but being able to say, “I enjoy something dry that goes well with chicken over rice (with white sauce and hot sauce).”
Whenever I make a suggestion, I align it with my mission to always get it right, because people are trusting me to elevate the experience being paired with the wine.
I often told customers if they didn’t like their bottle they could return to crack it over my head. But fortunately, no one has taken me up on the offer. When you share your excitement about wine with the people you love, you’ll be surprised at how they return the favor.
Don’t pretend to know something you don’t, because you will almost certainly get called out. I say this from experience after incorrectly calling something “effervescent”.
The industry has not been traditionally inclusive, but Black wine professionals like Marquita Levy, have continued to break down that barrier.
Access and privilege have served as obstacles that can intimidate folks entering into the world of wine, yet there’s a wave of new voices like the Trill Wine Wife, Meaghan, or the Pet Nat Papi.
Reach out to companies
Fill your cup with tenacity, and develop relationships with wineries and winemakers who stay on your mind. Set no limits on where you can build connections. And show up with conversations that show you’re an excellent fit to share their wine.
Last year, I was lucky to connect with Broc Cellars in California to start creating content for them. Collaboration helps everyone to win, and allows you to build relationships with wineries and businesses that you enjoy.
Winemakers in upstate New York, like Bloomer Creek, have begun to innovate the process that takes grapes to your glass. It offers delicious natural wines that are approachable and delectable.
Don’t overthink anything, and develop a voice for your brand that people will easily recall. I always envision what convincing words entice me away from the usual suspects you’ll see me uncorking.
Drinking wine is simple, but getting a grasp on how the machine behind it works is an exciting challenge. You don’t have to take that journey alone, because exploring is much more fun with friends around.