Jermaine Stone’s first exposure to wine happened when he worked in a wine warehouse. ZakisHe worked for a Westchester wine retailer and auction house in preparation for college.
Aspiring rapper from the Wakefield neighborhood of the Bronx, now 38, Stone has quickly found his way into the wine world, making a career as a fine wine curator and auctioneer, first at Zakis and then at Zakis. rice field. Wally’s in Los Angeles.
Now, as an independent wine consultant and social media entrepreneur, he works with key components of the industry, using hip hop as a vehicle to bring wine to cultures and communities that have historically been neglected by the industry. It is working to expand and diversify its consumer base. As many promised after the 2020 murder of George Floyd.
upon podcastthrough video and with his company, cru louve wineMr. Stone showed that the world of wine has a lot to learn.
He has discussed hip-hop with wine luminaries like Saskia de Rothschild. Chateau Lafite Rothschild Jeremy Seyce of Bordeaux Domaine Dujac in Burgundy.
He has worked with some of the largest wine and spirits companies, including: constellation brand, Robert Mondavi, Kim Crawford, Rufino, Prisoner and other popular label owners. His clients include wine industry associations in Italy, Germany and Australia, as well as wine companies such as champagne producer Piper Heidsieck and social media and cellar management tool Cellar Tracker.
Mr. Stone paired a cheeseburger with a Lafite. chopped cheese sandwich, New York specialty, cornus and. And a burgundy grilled cheese sandwich.
His goal is to eliminate pretense and put wine in the context of familiar and beloved elements of black culture.
“It’s important to make sure all cultures feel comfortable together,” Stone said. “Wine and hip-hop are who I am. If I want to see change, I have to be the change.
With rare exceptions, for generations the wine industry has been run by and for white men of European descent. Over the past 50 years, we have been operating internationally, primarily in Asia, where we have grown and profitably, motivated by clear business opportunities. And as new generations came of age, they became more welcoming, with daughters taking over the family estates and taking on winemaking and executive roles that women were once unable to achieve.
But the wine industry largely ignores the black and brown communities, reinforcing the notion that wine is for whites.
In the aftermath of Floyd’s murder, many wine companies have worked to ensure diversity. Often this turned out to be lip service.
Ikimi Dubose Woodson roots fundis a non-profit organization whose mission is to help make the wine industry accessible to blacks, indigenous peoples and other people of color. He said a small number of companies have shown sincere efforts, but overall he was disappointed with the results.
“They feel their problem is solved and are settling into a 30-minute online training session,” she said in a phone interview. “They are not looking to hire differently or rethink a million-year corporate culture. there is.”
Ms DuBose Woodson said a major part of the Roots Foundation’s work is to combine music and culture with wine to make people more immersed in wine and more comfortable, as Mr Stone has done. said that it was
One company making the effort, he said, is Constellation Brands, one of the world’s largest distributors of wine and spirits, which has hired Stone to employ more than 1,000 people. He hosts company-wide events that draw audiences.
“We have worked with him to build more diverse perspectives and strive to build empathy within the team,” said Robert Hanson, executive vice president of Constellation. “It will be difficult to live up to the promise and achieve the results that the industry has been striving for without the commitment of all our employees.”
For Hanson and Constellation, that meant putting people of color in positions of authority and investing money in Black, Hispanic and female entrepreneurs. For example, Bukola Ekudayo, a black woman, serves as vice president and general manager. Prisoner Wine Companyis one of Constellation’s most popular brands, and Constellation has pledged to fund two $100 million funds to support business ventures led by minorities and women. bottom.
For older generations of wine lovers, it’s rare to see or hear Stone trading Jay-Z lyrics with De Rothschild and Sacies. But it shows just how globally accepted hip-hop is, in contrast to the wine industry. Hip-hop may become the aspirational model for wine, at least within the reach of an audience.
“The world of wine can seem so exclusive and outdated,” Ms de Rothschild wrote in an email. “In most people’s eyes, it’s still seen as a white tablecloth product that belongs to the sacred world of sit-down dinners.”
With Stone, Lafitte wants to cross the seemingly closed world with cultures like hip-hop and street food, she said.
Dujac’s Sacies said he realized that wine could not be separated from politics.
“French wine was boycotted under George W. Bush and included in tariffs by President Trump. It has a direct impact,” he said in an email. “The fight against racism, the fight for more equality and more opportunities is part of it all. We want to contribute to building a truly sustainable society. from the winery to the workers and consumers of the wine industry.”
It was a long journey for Stone, who had a rough childhood in the Bronx. His father was a Jamaican immigrant and was a steel worker, but after he lost his job he started his own welding company.
“I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit because I watched him build something himself,” Stone said. “He taught me everything.”
In 2004, while attending Monroe College at night, young Mr. Stone began working in Zakis’ warehouse during the day. He quickly distinguished himself with his energy and hard work.
Mr. Stone soon became the logistics coordinator for the wine auction. For him, it was not only his first exposure to wine, but his first real contact with a white person. Part of his job was standing next to the auctioneers to make sure all bids were approved.
“When you walk into that room, it can be very intimidating. The wealth is different, the atmosphere is different,” he says. “I didn’t have any white friends, nor was I anywhere near another culture. Most people would imagine what I was like, but I had no idea. It taught me that mo has a personality.The people were so loving and welcoming.No one treated me as a small thing.”
Mr. Stone’s combination of confidence, self-awareness, and empathy allowed him to travel into the unknown without too much disappointment.
“My perception of racism is that there are different levels,” he said. “A lot of what people label as classic racism is actually racial ignorance. You must learn it, and if you despise me, I will find a way to level the playing field.”
He went independent in 2016, seeking flexibility to care for his mother, who was diagnosed with cancer. In addition to consulting, he said,wine and hip hop2018 Podcast.
“The phone really started ringing after George Floyd was murdered,” he recalled. “By allowing all cultures to feel comfortable together, people understood that I was already doing it.”
For DuBose Woodson, the most important thing now is direct action.
“The biggest thing is that I want to scream from the top of the mountain. We spend too much time strategizing,” she said. “You don’t have to plan for 10 years. You just have to get started.”
Stone’s commitment, she said, is a great example, along with the companies she named, such as Burgundian producers like Dujac. Domaine des Conte Lafont, Domaine Rulot, Maison Joseph Drouhin and Domaine de Montilleshe said, they are connected to master’s-level programs at historically black colleges.
“They are giving people of color an all-access pass to the best wines,” she says. “These domaines are educating, offering internships and visiting trips. They were unreachable places in wine.”
audio creator Jack Disidro.