The Hue Society Wine & Culture Fest Promotes a More Equitable Wine Industry


As a holiday, Juneteenth comes around just once a year, but the Black experience deserves to be recognized and to be celebrated all year long. The Hue Society is a community-based organization dedicated to doing just that specifically in the wine space.

Founded in 2017, the Hue Society was created to increase Black, brown, and Indigenous representation and access in the wine industry. It also serves as a bridge connecting BIPOC industry professionals with a rapidly growing population of Black wine enthusiasts to help brands grow their consumer bases and networks, and bring joy to the experience.

Founded on six core valuesthe organization’s mission is “to reimagine the wine industry by creating authentic, loving ecosystems that provide collective access and resources to uplift, educate and inspire the community we serve.”

The key theme here is change: The Hue Society is dedicated to effecting positive change within the wine world to make it more inclusive, and it’s also working to ensure that BIPOC individuals no longer feel the need to change their individual personalities in order to fit in or succeed.

The Hue Society founder, Tahiirah Habibi, is an internationally recognized sommelier who has been featured in Wine Spectator, BET, and Vogue as well as right here in VinePair and was named to Wine Enthusiast’s 40 under 40 list (she was also the first Black woman to appear on the cover). As a philanthropist, Habibi also co-founded the Roots Fund“A nonprofit organization focused on securing a pathway for the BIPOC community in wine”, and sits on the board of the James Beard Awards.

When asked about the origins and the importance of the Hue Society, Habibi referenced the longstanding problems within the wine industry and the real pain that this exclusion and discrimination breeds, all while stressing the necessity of having a space of free expression where the Black and brown experience is prioritized.

“We need a mirror,” she said. “We need it to be able to see ourselves. We needed a place where we will feel safe and and know that we will be loved and seen and heard just as we are without all of the gatekeeping and code-switching and real trauma that comes along with having to be a part of this industry a lot of times for Black people and People of Color. ”

Beyond serving as a welcoming and inclusive space for members of the BIPOC community, the organization is open to those of all levels of knowledge, interest, and experience. The Hue Society isn’t exclusive to wine professionals; it’s for all wine lovers. Along with sommeliers, winemakers, and importers, you’ll find individuals of all backgrounds and occupations who might not share a profession but do share a real passion. Within this space, wine is an extension of community with a come-as-you-are approach that’s about expanding access, not restricting it.

This philosophy shines through in the statements and actions of Habibi, who says, “I fully believe in not having to change who you are in order to be accepted and successful.”

Tahiirah Habibi
Pictured above, The Hue Society’s founder and CEO, Tahiirah Habibi (right) and Richelieu Dennis, founder of Essence Ventures (middle) look to educate and inspire the BIPOC community.

WINE & CULTURE FEST

Previously called the Black Wine Experience, Wine & Culture Fest is now in its fifth year and will take place Aug. 11 to 14 in Atlanta. The Hue Society describes the event as “the most inclusive wine festival dedicated to consumer education, brand awareness, industry advancement, and cultural experiences through the Black lens.”

This festival wasn’t founded simply to continue the conversation but to fill an existing gap. Frustrated by how festival organizers have historically ignored Black and brown ideals when putting together programming and events, Habibi and her team decided to do the opposite: They centered their festival around these perspectives, fostering a safe and supportive environment for exploration, expression, education, and empowerment.

“The Wine and Culture Fest is really about creating something where we could have fun and learn through our own cultural experiences,” Habibi said. “I find that a lot of times, you know, festivals, they may be fun, but they’re not really about us. And I wanted to create something where we could come in just as we are, drink some really good wine, and have a luxury experience. ”

The four-day event consists of five events outlined below, along with details and insights that VinePair, a festival partner, received from Habibi herself.

Exploring South African Wines

“Every year, I really want to focus on tackling an issue,” Habibi said, and this year the Hue Society is spotlighting the South African wine industry.

The festival begins on Thursday highlighting the food and wine of what Hue hails as “the Motherland,” featuring chefs, winemakers, and DJs flown in from South Africa. While the physical location is secret (so far), attendees can count on being transported across the Atlantic via an exciting taste experience featuring authentic food and cuisine while also engaging in frank discussion about individual experiences within the South African wine industry.

The Cookout

On Friday, the weekend kicks off with the Cookout at Upstairs Atlanta. The event features ”music, cuisine, and damn good wine”, according to Habibi, with a DJ, games, and food trucks, all with a focus on the Black-owned brands, distributors, importers, and other individuals within the Black wine space.

RICE

Saturday, the focus turns to RICE (Rising In Communities Every Day). RICE refers to rice itself, paying homage to the history of the culinary staple, its versatility and ability to nourish while focusing on the pivotal role the grain has played in the histories and cuisines of countless cultures and countries.

The greatness of the grain will not only be showcased by cuisines made by passionate chefs, but also include DJ sets and a Bubble Room featuring sparkling wines from around the world.

“I love the fact that we are pairing culture with high-end wines, which never really happens,” Habibi said. “I wanted to do something that was home-based and show that those pairings exist and it’s a beautiful thing.”

Roses and Rosé Awards Brunch

Held at the West Venue, Hue’s signature Roses and Rosé Awards Brunch is an annual event featuring gourmet desserts paired with a carefully curated selection of dessert wines. Plus there is something even sweeter: a first-of-its-kind awards ceremony furthering the organization’s mission to increase economic inclusion and representation by honoring the accomplishments of the BIPOC movers, shakers, and tastemakers transforming the wine industry.

“A lot of these award shows were excluding us,” Habibi said, “so I decided to create one and make sure it was an incredibly beautiful experience.”

Rosé Lounge

And finally, think pink! The weekend concludes at the West Venue, which will be transformed into the Rosé Lounge for the festival’s finale. A glitzy event with St. Tropez-style vibes, the final bash is where wine lovers dress up and show up to see and be seen while sampling all styles – dry, sparkling, sweet, still – of summer’s signature wine.

“The best party of the year” Habibi said of the recurring event, also referencing the success of last year’s. “I promise you people are still talking about it.”

FUTURE FOCUS

While Habibi and her team at Hue might take a brief nap on Aug. 15, they surely won’t rest for long. There’s far more work to be done as the growing organization continues its mission to dismantle racism, fight for inclusion, and transform the wine industry through new, revolutionary practices.

When looking toward the future, the Hue Society describes an ambitious and admirable vision:

“To become the number one wine community in the world with global communities on every continent. To increase the industry with Black and brown indigenous professionals on their own terms. Host impactful wine events and engagements. Be a conduit of change that disrupts inequitable systems. To become the new standard. ”

This article is sponsored by The Hue Society.

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