Juneteenth, the day that commemorates the end of slavery following the Civil War, arrives again on Sunday, June 19.
While Black Americans have long honored the day, it became a federal holiday last year, signed into law by President Biden. There are many ways to acknowledge Juneteenth, with one of the most popular being backyard barbecues and cookouts, enjoying foods that have long been staples among the Black community.
Wine can be a perfect pairing partner for all those slow-smoked meats, sweet and spicy barbecue sauces, hearty okra stews, crispy slaws, and summer salads. The holiday also marks a perfect time to support Black winemakers and try Black-owned wines.
But before reaching for a bottle, there are a few things to know about Juneteenth.
What is Juneteenth?
It all started on June 19, 1865, when Gordon Granger, a Union general, arrived in Galveston, Texas, and told enslaved Black Americans that the Civil War had ended and they were finally free.
President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation more than two and a half years earlier, on January 1, 1863. However, as Galveston was the only remaining U.S. town in which Black people still endured the hardships of slavery, Granger’s message put the law in full effect.
The first official Juneteenth celebration occurred nearly 10 years later. A group of Black American pastors and businessmen bought 10 acres of land and established Emancipation Park, where the first documented large-scale celebration took place in 1872.
How Juneteenth became a federal holiday
Texas was the first to recognize the day officially, after state legislator Al Edwards passed a bill designating Juneteenth a state-recognized holiday in 1979.
Edwards was instrumental in helping legislators across other areas of the United States get bills passed to recognize Juneteenth; however, getting legislation passed at a federal level proved challenging — until the onslaught of nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice in 2020, which gave the movement new legs.
Legislators used the moment to push for a federal holiday, and on June 17, 2021, Biden signed a law proclaiming Juneteenth as the 11th federal holiday in the country.
How to celebrate Juneteenth with wine
Early in its history, people celebrated Juneteenth at Black churches or in rural areas fit for activities like horseback riding and fishing, according to Juneteenth.com. Nowadays, some cities hold parades and festivals for residents to enjoy, while some people plan elaborate celebrations with relatives.
One of the most common ways to observe the holiday is by supporting Black-owned businesses — wine is certainly a part of that, although Black-owned wines only make up a small share of the U.S. wine industry. According to a 2020 study, Black-owned wineries only account for less than 1% of all U.S. wineries, and their presence is even smaller globally.
However, much of what is available is worth seeking out. Plenty of available bottles hit the mark for quality, and many wines from Black winemakers have gone on to win awards and gain favor with critics. What’s even better? Many Black-owned wines sell at reasonable price points. These are some of our favorite bottles, in honor of Juneteenth.
12 bottles to bring to Juneteenth celebrations
Sparkling wines for Juneteenth:
McBride Sisters Hawke’s Bay Sparkling Brut Rose (~$23)
Since launching in 2005, sisters Robin and Andréa McBride have been a force for championing inclusivity and accessibility in the wine industry. Along with making wine, the duo manage the SHE CAN Fund, which provides educational resources for women of color interested in wine, in addition to helping them find positions in the industry. The McBride Sisters’ sparkling rosé — made with grapes grown in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand — is a favorite among critics, earning a 91-point score from Wine Spectator. Bright with generous floral and berry aromas, this sparkling wine has strawberry and cream flavors with notes of peach and raspberry. A hint of toasty almond provides complexity while the finish lingers with crisp acidity.
Abbey Creek #Shining Oregon Sparkling Pinot Gris (~$75)
Bertony Faustin became the first Black winemaker in Oregon after launching Abbey Creek Vineyard in Oregon’s Willamette Valley in 2008. This sparkling wine, made with Pinot Gris, is delightfully fresh with complex peach and floral flavors and radiant minerality.
Rosé wines for Juneteenth:
La Fête du Rosé Côtes de Provence (~$25)
La Fête du Rosé was born from the brain of Donae Burston, who formerly worked for renowned brands like Dom Perignon, Veuve Clicquot, Ruinart, and Moët & Chandon. Following a trip to St. Tropez for his 30th birthday, Burston fell head-over-heels for the light, pale pink rosés of Provence and set out to make his own version. Burston works with the wine team at Château Saint-Maur to create a medium-bodied blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Syrah. The wine is lively and crisp, with red fruit flavors and a splash of citrus.
White wines for Juneteenth:
Kumusha Wines South Africa Sauvignon Blanc (~$21)
Zimbabwe-born Tinashe Nyamudoka started as a sommelier before he traded in fine dining for winemaking. He launched Kumusha Wines in 2017 and works with grape growers across South Africa to make a range of wines. The Sauvignon Blanc is made with fruit grown in the Sondagskloof winemaking region within the Cape South Coast. The grapes’ coastal influences leads to a bright wine beaming with minerality and melon aromas and flavors. Citrus undertones linger in the background while fresh acidity shines through in the finish.
Aslina Wines South Africa Chardonnay (~$24)
Ntsiki Biyela, South Africa’s first Black woman winemaker, launched Aslina Wines in 2016. This fruity Chardonnay is made from grapes grown in the Western Cape. It features intense aromas and flavors of tropical fruit and lime, while spicy vanilla and oak notes come alive in the long finish.
Bodkin The Astronaut Lake County Muscat Canelli (~$22)
Now here’s a wine full of pretty floral nuances. Produced in Sonoma County by Iowa native Chris Christensen, this Muscat Canelli is fragrant with aromas of wild flowers and honey. The easy-drinking wine is soft and rich, with flavors of ripe tangerine and fresh-baked bread on the palate. The finish is crisp with lingering floral notes.
Ole’ Orleans Saint Charles Ave. California Chardonnay (~$27)
Proprietor Kim Lewis launched Ole’ Orleans wines in homage to her hometown, New Orleans, Louisiana, though her wines are made in California with state-grown fruit. Grapes from Lodi are used to create this full-bodied and
Mela Vino California White Wine (~$28)
Owned by friends Kyndal Easter, Chelsea Walden, Ryann Casey, and Erica Estrada, this is a blend of Gewürztraminer, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, and Riesling. The grapes are sourced from vineyards across Napa Valley and Clarksburg, California. Aromas of apricots and honeysuckle lead, with supporting flavors of ripe peach, apple, and pears. The wine has a silky mouthfeel and medium body, finishing with mouthwatering acidity.
Red wines for Juneteenth:
Wachira Wines The Elephant Black Label Lodi Zinfandel (~$36)
Kenyan-American winemaker Christine Wachira established Wachira Wines in California in 2017. She uses fruit from Lodi to create this robust and fruit-forward Zinfandel. Purple-hued, this medium-bodied wine smells of cherry cola and blackberry, while the palate is balanced with red fruits, plum, baking spices, and cocoa. Silky tannins come into play in the long, smooth finish.
LoveLee Sonoma County Pinot Noir (~$47)
Roots Fund scholar Aamira Garba took a big leap into winemaking when she launched her urban winery, LoveLee Wine, in 2016. She primarily works with fruit grown in Napa Valley and Sonoma County, where she sources the grapes for this jammy Pinot Noir. You can’t miss the fragrances of raspberries and cherries. The palate is soaked in similar berry flavors but features a hint of violet and pepper. Overall, the wine is light-bodied and easy to drink.
Dirty Radish Willamette Valley Gamay Noir (~$48)
Sommelier and wine educator Chevonne Ball added the title of vintner to her resume when she launched her first wine, Dirty Radish, in 2020. Ball, who was named a Wine Enthusiasts Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers of 2020, makes this easy-drinking Gamay Noir in her home state of Oregon with grapes from the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. The wine is light and fruity with plenty of red berry character.
Darjean Jones Wines Stagecoach Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Franc (~$75)
While Dawna Darjean Jones produces an array of boutique wines in Napa Valley, the Cabernet Franc is a stand-out. Medium-bodied and bold with concentrated blackberry flavors, this wine was a silver medal winner at the 2021 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. In addition to the black fruit notes, this Cabernet Franc displays inviting aromas of tart red cherry and cocoa. The palate is sprinkled with herbal nuances and it has refined tannins that remain throughout the long finish.