The winemaker trade group will invest in scholarship and mentoring programs.

By Mike Pomranz
September 16, 2020
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The American alcohol industry is not as diverse as the population at large. A survey last year of 3,100 professionals presented by the trade publication SevenFifty found that 84 percent of respondents were white whereas just 2 percent were Black. Many parts of the industry have been attempting to address these issues for years. But increased awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 has put a more immediate focus on how beer, wine, and spirits can be more inclusive.

Yesterday, another major organization pledged to further promote the cause. Napa Valley Vintners (NVV)—the over 75-year-old trade association that now represents 550 wineries across America’s best-known wine region—announced plans to invest “more than $1 million in new scholarship and mentorship programs to increase diversity, inclusivity and opportunity in all aspects of the wine industry.”

“The NVV represents one of the world’s premier wine regions and strives to be a leader in all aspects of the industry,” Linda Reiff, president and CEO, said in the announcement. “We recognize our nation is at a critical moment to finally end centuries of racism and to dramatically increase diversity, inclusivity and opportunity, including in the wine industry. The NVV believes our community and industry should be open and welcoming to people of color, whether working here, visiting the valley or enjoying our wines anywhere.”

Specifically, NVV is partnering with UNCF (the United Negro College Fund) to offer $200,000 in scholarships each of the next five years “for people of color to pursue college degrees in wine industry subjects ranging from grape growing, winemaking, marketing, business and more.” Additionally, NVV has allocated another $100,000 to offer mentorships with Wine Unify—a Napa-based non-profit that promotes diversity in the world of wine—and Batonnage—a California group dedicated to women in wine. Finally, NVV adds that the group will consider “notable actions taken by organizations that work on enhancing diversity, inclusivity and opportunity for others” when offering grants in the future.

NVV is also encouraging wine lovers (or anyone, really) who wants to support diversity in wine to make individual scholarship donations through a dedicated page on the UNCF website.

As mentioned, NVV is one of many groups in the alcohol industry that have continued to increase their commitment to inclusivity in recent years. For instance, in 2018, America’s largest craft beer trade group, the Brewers Association—which represents thousands of breweries across the country—added its first Diversity Ambassador. And moving into spirits, just two weeks ago, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association announced a new scholarship program in conjunction with the University of Kentucky’s distillation, wine, and brewing studies program to encourage diversity in the distilling industry.

Meanwhile, support for diversity continues to grow in the wine world, too. For example, in July, a trio of industry professionals including Master Sommelier Carlton McCoy, Jr. launched The Roots Fund, a group seeking “to create financial support, mentorship, and job placement opportunities for people of color in the wine industry.” And as Vinepair reported last month, The Roots Fund was one of ten organizations (which also included the aforementioned groups Batonnage and Wine Unify) that participated in the first-ever Diversity in Wine Leadership Forum held virtually on August 10. The plan is to hold this new forum biannually moving forward.