These BIPOC Wine Podcasts Are Changing the Narrative
Whether you want to learn about wine or dish about the latest gossip, these shows have you covered.
Wine is made for pairing, whether you’re searching for the right cheese to serve with that bottle of bubbly or the perfect dessert to accompany a glass of port after dinner. It’s also made for sharing, which makes it prime podcast fodder. As it turns out, a lot of people like to talk about wine just as much as they like to consume it.
Enter the wine podcast. A current search on Apple Podcasts yields dozens of shows that claim to be—at least in part—about wine. Like the wine industry at large, these podcast hosts are predominantly white. However, a handful of BIPOC hosts have stepped into the podcast space to challenge preconceived notions about who enjoys wine and how.
Here, six podcasts that are changing narratives and discussing everything from wine education to industry gossip.
The Black Wine Guy Experience
After getting his start working in retail, MJ Towler went all in on wine, becoming a sommelier and auctioneer of rare bottles. In the fall of 2020, he took his expertise to a new platform with his podcast, “The Black Wine Guy Experience.” As Towler, who’s based in Red Bank, New Jersey, explains it, the format is built around the idea of “a couple of old friends catching up over a bottle of wine,” despite the fact that most of the time, he doesn’t personally know the guests he’s interviewing. “So I just have conversations with people,” he says. “Some people will say, ‘I’ve never told this story before.’ I don’t want to say it’s less about wine, but it’s about the stories about people who are in the business.”
Lately, Towler has been reflecting on the direction of the podcast. Like many of the other hosts, wine isn’t necessarily what the podcast revolves around; rather, it’s the delicious, satisfying conduit to the deeper stuff. “I’ve been fortunate enough to interview Mark Iacono, who owns Lucali’s pizza in New York, which is the pizza place of Jay Z and Beyoncé and all the stars,” he says. “I really enjoy the interviews and sit-downs with people who I call wine adjacent—people who love wine. They just love it.”
The Color of Wine
Hosted by wine professional Sukari Bowman, “The Color of Wine” features one-on-one conversations with people of color working in the drinks business. From wine buyers to sommeliers and restaurateurs, Bowman speaks with industry tastemakers who offer compelling, heartfelt stories and candid insight into navigating wine as a non-white person. Note: the podcast hasn’t aired new episodes since 2021, but the extensive archive is home to 83 episodes featuring Julia Coney, Philippe Andre, and other wine-world luminaries.
I’ma Need More Wine
Looking for a side of pop culture analysis with your glass? “I’ma Need More Wine” might just be the podcast for you. Each Wednesday, the host, Jocelyn (an attorney by day who goes by her first name only), dishes out a weekly take on all things television and film, while sharing wine and banter with guests. A recent episode delivered a mid-season report card on the buzzy Abbott Elementary series, while others cover HBO’s Return of the Dragon and the Netflix film Fire Island.
The Swirl Suite
With industry powerhouses Sarita Cheaves, Tanisha Townsend, Leslie Frelow, and Glynis Hill as hosts, “The Swirl Suite” is a delight for wine lovers of all levels. The foursome interviews people in all corners of wine, from grape growers to vineyard owners to founders and entrepreneurs.
“One of my favorite episodes was JJ Williams and Shae Frichette of Frichette Winery,” says Cheaves. “Who else? They’re two Black women who started this subscription service called The Sip, and that episode was a great one.”
There have been nearly 150 episodes of “The Swirl Suite” to date and, according to Cheaves, many of their most “diehard listeners” might even prefer that they skip the guests from time to time. “It’s funny, they love hearing our camaraderie,” she says. “They just want us to drink wine and talk about it ourselves. So [sometimes] you’re gonna get what you get out of four Black women who are drinking the same bottle of wine: We’re relatable, we have fun, but we will drop knowledge and a little wine education, too.”
For those curious about the deep inner-workings of the wine world, “Wine Buzz” offers a peek behind the curtain, thanks to illuminating conversations with lifelong industry vets and newcomers alike. Host Clinton Lee, founder of Asia Pacific Wine and Spirit Institute (APWASI), chats with guests like Karen MacNeil, author of the world-renowned book The Wine Bible, and Will Blackmon, the football player and Super Bowl champion-turned-certified sommelier.
Wine & Chisme
As the host of “Wine & Chisme,” former YouTube vlogger Jessica Yañez will tackle just about any subject, from careers to relationships to general life issues. The podcast name plays on “wine and cheese,” she explains, and uses the Spanish word for gossip. Her guests have included authors, entrepreneurs, life coaches, sexologists, and close friends. When she started the podcast, Yañez explicitly prioritized amplifying stories across communities of color.
“I definitely think it probably skews very heavily toward the Latina audience,” she says. She believes her listeners enjoy hearing “from people that come from similar backgrounds, who are working hard, who are continuing to achieve what they feel is successful for them.”The wine du jour on Yañez’s podcast varies, though she does have her favorites. “I am a sucker for a California Cab, I love those robust flavors,” she says. “If I want something really light, I love a good Beaujolais.”
In addition to “Wine & Chisme,” Yañez has combined her love of wine and highlighting Latine stories through yet another medium: the first wine directory dedicated exclusively to Latine-owned wine brands based in the United States. She worked directly with many of these owners, vetting them and personally tasting their wines. “I haven’t had a bad one yet that has come from these small independent wineries,” she says.