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April 13, 2024

Long-Lost Sisters Who Built the Largest Black-Owned Wine Company in the U.S. Reveal How to Break Into a Notoriously Tough Industry

Long-Lost Sisters Who Built the Largest Black-Owned Wine Company in the U.S. Reveal How to Break Into a Notoriously Tough Industry

“When we started [McBride Sisters Collection], we were young, we were women, and we were Black women,” Andréa McBride says. “So we didn’t look like what had traditionally been really successful in the wine industry.”

The McBride sisters’ path to business partnership wasn’t traditional either.

Half sisters who were raised as only children across the world from each other, both happened to grow up in wine regions: Andréa in New Zealand and Robin in Monterrey, California. They connected with the help of family members in 1999 after their father’s passing, and it wasn’t long before they discovered their shared passion for wine — and decided to follow it into business.

McBride Sisters Collection was founded in 2005. Nearly 20 years later, the Oakland-based venture has become the largest Black-owned wine company in the U.S., boasting several wine collections, including its Black Girl Magic wines “sourced from some of California’s finest winegrowing regions” and She Can wines and spritzers.

Image Credit: Courtesy of McBride Sisters Collection

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To get to this point, the sisters have had to be disruptive and nimble in an industry that’s “at a really interesting crossroads” in terms of reaching a diverse consumer base, the McBrides say. Across the board, wine consumption is on the decline, falling roughly 6% between 2017 and 2022, according to International Organisation of Vine and Wine data reported by CNN Business.

Baby boomers, the main consumers of wine really since they came of drinking age in the 1960s, are now in decline,” Andréa McBride explains, “and if you’re targeting that market, you’re only going to grow by fighting for share.”

That’s why the McBrides have always been eager to tap into new consumer bases, especially college-educated women of color. The gap is shrinking between men and women who drink, and college-educated women across all demographics are more likely to drink and drink more days per month, according to research from Futurity.

“Distributors and retailers hold the most power in our industry and have been running this playbook for brands,” Andréa McBride says, “and the results don’t seem to be working for those that do see the value that our portfolio provides in terms of being way more accessible, socially conscious, culturally conscious.”

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The McBrides note they’ve also seen a “stylistic” difference between the types of wines that baby boomers gravitate towards and those that younger consumers prefer: “a trend pattern of lighter styles of wine versus big, heavy Cabernet Sauvignon [or] big, buttery Chardonnay.”

People are also drinking wine in different ways. “A lot of the time, the wine industry has focused on occasions around the dinner table through a very Eurocentric lens,” Andréa McBride says. “But within our circle, the foods we eat are very global, so we just think through that lens.”

The McBride Sisters Collection “is incredibly food-friendly” and pairs well across a range of cuisines, the co-founders say, adding that “occasions in this generation aren’t fully focused on the dinner table — [they] can be, but wine is also showing up in different contexts.”

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The McBrides admit the wine industry isn’t an “easy” one: “We got a lot of pushback because the way that we thought and the way that we moved and acted was very different.”

But it’s also been “so rewarding” and “so much fun,” and they encourage other Black founders to “come on in.” Just be sure to find a mentor you can trust and surround yourself with community first.

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