How Improving Latinx Representation Could Revolutionize Wine
Maria Calvert and Lydia Richards, the founders of Hispanics in Wine, have a powerful vision.
On a recent trip to Napa, after speaking with several vineyard stewards, Maria Calvert and Lydia Richards made a surprising discovery. “We learned some of them don’t even taste the wine they’re harvesting,” says Calvert. “That just speaks volumes to the limited accessibility and opportunities there are for individuals who are the backbone of the industry.”
Vineyard stewards, or those who tend to the grapes at the start of the winemaking process, are just the beginning. While the majority of the U.S. wine industry workforce is Latinx, they remain frequently left out of other aspects of wine culture, from education to events.
Calvert and Richards, who met while working together at a culinary-focused PR agency, saw a chance to bridge the gap.
In September 2020, the duo launched Hispanics in Wine with a mission to provide educational and career-advancement opportunities to the ever-growing Hispanic and Latinx community of wine professionals in the U.S.
“We saw, as the two Latinas within the company, but within the industry itself, the lack of representation of people working in the industry beyond vineyard workers,” Richards says. “Then, obviously, the pandemic happened and that fueled all our emotions.”
They’d seen how Julia Coney helped open the door for Black representation in wine when she founded the organization Black Wine Professionals, and how conversations surrounding diversity “started to heighten a little bit more,” Richards says. They wanted Hispanics in Wine to be a social space for highlighting Latinx people across the industry, whether in education, marketing, or winemaking itself.
Of course, landing on a name for the budding group was a challenge in and of itself.
“That was a month-long conversation,” Calvert says, laughing. “We were going back and forth with the name. Ultimately, we decided [on] ‘Hispanic’ just for being as inclusive as possible— in terms of, look, if you speak Spanish, you’re in the community.”
Interest in the group has grown rapidly. More and more people want to find ways to be involved with the organization, Richards says. “We have something big in our hands. The idea has sort of snowballed.”
Come December, the group will host its second annual Latinx Wine Summit in Napa. The theme is “Somos Visibles: Unheard Voices en Vino,” and it will be presented in a hybrid format, with both in-person and virtual participation. Moderated by Gabriela Fernandez of The Big Sip, the one-day summit will feature a series of panels, networking, special guest speakers, and tastings.
In naming the summit, Calvert and Richards chose ‘Latinx’ in an effort to capture the different terms that the community might use or identify with. “Not one word will fit all,” Calvert says.“We’re open to whatever you are, however you identify yourself, of course,” Richards adds. “Everybody’s welcome here.”
Hispanics in Wine officially became a nonprofit earlier this year, and the group is gearing up for more programming in 2023. One of its main objectives is to provide financial assistance for Latinx people interested in wine, like funding proprietary or partner scholarships for those pursuing wine education or certification.
Another key piece of planned programming is to host more bilingual events. They want to target industry workers who might not get access to wine tastings and ensure that those tastings happen in both Spanish and English.
“We want to continue growing this community, building our network of Latinx professionals all around the country and globally, and highlighting our diversity in terms of trade professionals, but also as consumers,” Richards says.
Nielsen data estimates U.S. Latinx buying power is $2.7 trillion, and yet many Latinx people do not feel reflected in wine industry marketing and promotions. Undoubtedly, missed opportunities with the Hispanic consumer are aplenty.
“We just keep growing as a group and a lot of people are having more buying power, but nobody’s really talking to us,” Richards says.
One Latinx wine consumer category that’s often neglected or completely overlooked are collectors, like the young professionals who are getting into wine because of their work environment, their colleagues, and their friends. And yet, while they may want to collect, they’re not being targeted by wine brands. Again, bilingual education and marketing campaigns can help with that.
“[It’s about] trying to fit in that cultural component and relatability,” Richards says. “Having our foods being paired with a wide selection of wines, it’s super helpful if we want to reach that consumer. Not everything has to be steak and burgundy—we’re going to do Champagne and empanadas, making it a little bit more approachable.”
Back on their Napa trip, Calvert and Richards connected with a new generation of vineyard stewards who are eager for more accessibility to the world they are so instrumental in bringing to life. Oftentimes, as they were talking with them, they would ask, point-blank, whether they drank wine at home. Many said no.
“They have interest, but they just don’t have the tools for that,” Calvert says. “It was amazing to see their feedback and facial expressions because they were like, ‘No one’s ever spoken to us about these kinds of opportunities.’ So, for us, wine tasting is beyond just what we think of traditionally with the trade—it’s about expanding to those who don’t have access, even for those who work in wine.”