How The Hue Society Is Shifting Wine Culture, Sip by Sip

Wine culture is evolving to include more diverse voices and appeal to an expanded range of palates. As the industry quickly grows, The Hue Society is at the forefront by raising representative voices and providing an inclusive experience for Black, brown, and Indigenous people.

Founded in 2017 by the award-winning sommelier, entrepreneur, and wine industry disruptor Tahiirah Habibi, this membership-based organization fosters greater inclusivity in the wine industry by not only providing wine professionals of color greater access to educational and income-boosting opportunities but also by giving consumers more immersive exposure to the world of wine — especially through brands founded or helmed by the BIPOC community.

The Hue Society currently has chapters in Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York,  Miami, California, the Washington D.C. area, Detroit, and South Africa. In 2024, the organization aims to expand to New Orleans, Texas, North and South Carolina, and Italy. Members enjoy blind tastings, education sessions, professional development opportunities, exclusive discounts, and other perks. Additionally, The Hue Society hosts events that don’t require attendees to be members, and its annual Wine & Culture Festival is one people look forward to year after year.

Positioned as the most inclusive wine festival in the U.S., the Wine & Culture Festival features tastings, panel discussions, interactive sessions, concerts, parties, and other cultural experiences. It’s an intentionally safe space where people are invited to show up as their full selves with no code-switching or assimilative behaviors required. To Habibi, this festival offers BIPOC the opportunity to fully embrace aspects of themselves that are often exchanged for access to fine-wine and dining experiences, whether in language, mannerism, hairstyle, or other means.

Each year, the festival is given a different theme that pays homage to Black people’s impact on both wine culture and the collective culture in general. This year’s festival takes place in Atlanta from July 23 to July 30 and bears the theme “Kingdom Come: Celebrating the Tables that We Have Built.”

What ‘Kingdom Come’ Means 

This year’s brand partners exemplify the ethos of building “new tables” by creating more equitable spaces for collective participation instead of striving for inclusion in spaces that have historically excluded or ignored communities of color. For Habibi, the term “Kingdom Come” represents a reclaiming of spaces, voices, and selves and a push to retain that authenticity in every situation. “The community is the kingdom, and the community is coming,” she says. “We are here.”

For example, returning partner,  McBride Sisters,  is the largest Black-owned wine company in the country. Its founders, Robin and Andrea McBride, participate in the festival every year because it offers them unique opportunities to connect more fully with current and potential consumers. Regarding this year’s theme, Robin says, “To me, it means coming together in the spirit of community to share, honor, and celebrate our successes and contributions in wine and beyond.” In addition, Andrea often says, “Go where you don’t belong, because someday you will.” That belief spurs the sisters’ determination for their brand to create a smoother path to success for more Black-owned brands. 

Another returning partner,  Wade Cellars, continues to participate because of a shared ethos of making wine more accessible to diverse consumers with accessible price points, a reimagining of flavor note language, and more. Founded by former athlete, entertainer, and philanthropist Dwayne Wade, the brand has almost automatic name recognition. However, that doesn’t take anything away from the attention to quality, according to a brand rep. In fact, having his name on each bottle makes Wade more determined to offer a product that exceeds expectations. 

Those efforts have resulted in numerous awards for Wade Cellars; Wade was even appointed to the board of the U.C. Davis Oenology and Viticulture program. Events like The Hue Society’s Wine & Culture Festival allow for a deeper ability to meet wine lovers, whether novices or connoisseurs, where they’re at. That’s why the brand identifies so profoundly with the concept of “Kingdom Come.” To Wade and his team, it means opening up the doors of your kingdom and welcoming people in. 

Pur Noire Urban Wineries, founded by married couple Kenneth and Carissa Stephens, is the first Black-owned winery and tasting room in Houston. Carissa, a certified sommelier, appreciates the ability to participate in this festival because it creates more awareness around the need to support Black-owned businesses. 

“If we are to truly affect change, it starts with confidence in our ability to be exceptional in spaces [where] we don’t already see ourselves, and it ends with community,” she says. While she revels in the freedom she feels in decidedly Black spaces, she also notes the importance of welcoming all people and exposing them to high-quality wines created by diverse producers. “It’s imperative that, as a society, it’s more broadly understood that Black-owned does not mean Black-only,” Stephens says. 

Raymond Smith, the founder of  Indigené Cellars, has a more nuanced affinity for the festival. Just as he loves the unique flavor elements that terroir creates in his wines, he also appreciates the individual perspectives and personalities he encounters thanks to The Hue Society’s Wine & Culture Fest. As a veteran wine entrepreneur, he’s excited to share his story and let others learn from his challenges. He hopes to help winemakers of color “exceed expectations and produce stellar wines as a reflection of each unique persona.” He’s compelled to emphasize the importance of benevolence, especially among Black-owned businesses. He’s so committed to giving back that he proudly named his company’s single-vineyard blend “Philanthropist.” 

The Hue Society also commits to a positive community impact. In fact, this year the Wine & Culture Festival will pay homage to the legacy of cookbook author and Gullah Geechee cuisine luminary, the late Emily Meggett, at its annual Roses and Rosé Awards Brunch, with the Meggett family in attendance. In addition to renaming the Legendary Chef Award after her, the festival is also collecting donations to help preserve Gullah Geechee culture and to establish a scholarship in her honor.

Habibi is particularly excited about helping continue Meggett’s legacy in this way, as it highlights a significant part of Black food culture. It also serves to amplify the importance of Black foodways in general. “It’s crucial to celebrate the foods that feel like home to us,” she says. “Food is a way to explore ourselves, through ourselves.”

To take part in this one-of-a-kind event, head to the Wine & Culture Fest’s website for tickets and more information.

This article is sponsored by The Hue Society.