Ever since TJ and Hadley Douglas opened their South End wine shop Urban Grape 10 years ago, the couple has been intent on making wine a more inclusive experience. Many people of color, they explain, don’t see themselves represented in the wine world, whether in product marketing or in the industry’s workforce. The Douglases, through their Black-owned business, are working to change that. Raising the visibility of beverage producers of color is a key part of their mission.
Urban Grape has long championed the wines of André Hueston Mack, whose Oregon-made Maison Noir Wines continue their reign as fan favorites throughout Boston. Mack was the first African American to be named Best Young Sommelier by gastronomic society Chaine des Rotisseurs, then worked for Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in Napa Valley, and Per Se in New York, before going on to make wine. Over the years, the Brooklyn-based wine professional — also a graphic designer, author, and restaurateur — has been featured regularly at the shop. Most recently, Mack was a guest on Clink Progressively, Urban Grape’s weekly tasting series online.
Last month, the shop also began showcasing La Fête du Rosé, a label owned by Donae Burston, the founder and CEO of the brand. He is a Champagne industry veteran who formerly managed accounts like Veuve Clicquot and Dom Pérignon for beverage conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy. “I was reading more and more about his brand,” explains TJ Douglas, referring to an encounter early on with the proprietary cuvee, crafted and bottled in the south of France. “He’s all about getting [the wine industry] to be more inclusive and giving back to the community,” says Douglas.
From the beginning, the shop owner was impressed by the quality of the rosé, as well as how Burston directs a portion of sales to racial justice efforts and youth-serving organizations. Douglas reached out to him, then approached Weymouth-based Hogshead Wine Company to serve as distributor in Massachusetts. The deal came together in record time, and customers are responding enthusiastically.
Bottles from both Mack and Burston sell out repeatedly. Douglas is heartened by the upsurge in interest. Robust sales send a message to distributors and retailers about Black-owned brands.
“If you bring them in, and if you tell their story, they’ll fly off the shelves,” he says.
La Fête du Rosé, Côtes de Provence, St. Tropez 2018 This day-bright, salmon-hued rosé offers stone fruit and berry aromas that are waterfall-fresh on the nose. This blend of mostly grenache, with mourvèdre and syrah, has presence. It’s full of crunchy stone fruit, tangy red berries, lemon pith, and a hint of salt. Crafted for the label by Domaine Bertaud Belieu in Saint-Tropez, France. 12.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). Around $25. Distributor: Hogshead Wine Company. Available at Urban Grape, South End, 857-250-2509.
Maison Noir Wines, “Love Drunk” Oregon Rosé 2019 Onion skin in hue with brassy highlights, this rosé (a blend of chardonnay and pinot noir) offers cling peach, sweet citrus, and wet stone scents. Tart strawberry and stone fruit on the palate, finishing with a pink grapefruit tang. 13.1 percent ABV. Around $26. Distributor: Horizon Beverage. Available at Urban Grape; Whole Foods Market (Ink Block), South End, 617-904-1000; Redstone Liquors, Stoneham, 781-438-9265.
Ellen Bhang can be reached at email@example.com