It’s Not Just Wine. It’s Culture.
Over generations, we have seen the hard work and dedication of Latino migrant working families that have significantly contributed to the farming industry. As a result, Latinos have played an integral role in the planting and harvesting of the goods we consume. And in recent decades, the growing presence of Latino vintners has surged in solidifying a growing influence in the wine industry.
The Bracero Program and Its Impact on American Farming and Agriculture
Knowing our history and where we come from is only a fraction of what it means to be a Latino Vintner. If we look back on history, we see the groundwork of how wine is part of the fabric of who we are and how it defines a culture. Needless to say, our history is contributing to the steady growth of Latino representation.
The Bracero Program had a notable impact on the American history of farming and agriculture. The program was established in 1942 as an agreement between Mexico and the United States that permitted Mexican citizens temporary legal agricultural work in the United States. Moreover, the majority of the braceros were experienced farm laborers who came to the United States to contribute their knowledge and know-how to the system where they successfully converted the agricultural fields into the most productive in the world.
The Past, Present, and Future of Latino Vintners
I sat down with Renaissance man, Armando Tam, visionary and creator of his recently published and nationally recognized book, It’s a Vibe; A Food and Wine Experience, to connect with the experiences he has had with numerous vintners throughout his years of cooking and pairings.
Tam explained that a common thread about the Latino vintners in which he has interacted throughout the years. were all set for different career paths. Becoming vintners was not their first choice. “I am impressed at their level of talent,” explained Tam. Many began in the wine business because they were hired to work in the fields, and through time, learned the trade. Additionally, Tam went on to explain that what was reassuring was that while they are learning the business aspect of their company, they are talented winemakers developing and building their brand. Knowing that there is a genuine drive and passion to produce a high-quality product is encouraging.
Latino winemakers consist of 17.3% of the nation’s producers. However, the future of Latino wine vintners is solidified with the generations to come that will have an established foundation to continue their legacy.
The Struggles of Representation
Let’s face it, we all know of the inequity and underrepresentation of Latinos within every industry, including vintners. Consequently, our history has continuously been reduced to an almost non-existent cultural lesson in history classes in our traditional education system. It is our time to continue to build on a foundation of helping each other and to support one another in telling those stories that are culturally rich and vibrant that withstand the test of time. There are several organizations that have been specifically established to do just that. Hispanics in Wine and Ahivoy are two nonprofit organizations, founded to help empower Latino winemakers through education, mentorship, and other crucial resources that help empower Latino vintner leaders to sustainability.
Vintners to Follow
The process of vetting wine by a level two sommelier is no easy task. Sommelier’s look for quality, typicity, food parability, and packaging. Here are three amazing vintners, all of which have been successfully vetted, that are making their mark on the wine industry while honoring their Latino culture as they continue to grow their brands.
Parra Wine Company – Sam Parra, Oregon
Solorio Family Wines – Mario Solorio, Calistoga, Napa Valley, California
Ortega Family Wines – Jesus Ortega, Napa Valley, California
Wine 101 – Glossary of terms
Sommelier – A wine professional with formal training in all aspects of wine service, wine and food pairings, and wine storage.
Typicity – Signature characteristics of the grape from which it was produced.
Food parability – The flavor profiles of the wine that complement its food pairing.
Packaging – Judging the book by its cover. The label is everything! It catches the eye and appeals to the consumer.
Vintner – wine maker
Editorial, E. (2020) What sommeliers look for while buying wines, Wine Industry Advisor. Available at: https://wineindustryadvisor.com/2020/03/05/what-sommeliers-look-for-buying-wines (Accessed: January 16, 2023).