The Willamette Valley, home of Oregon Pinot Noir will host the world’s first Queer Wine Fest in June, as part of Pride Month. The initiative was launched by a nonprofit organisation called Wine Country Pride, with the support of Remy Drabkin, founder of Remy Wines and the first queer Mayor of McMinnville, ‘capital’ of Oregon’s most famous wine region.
Over the course of the month, there will be a street fair and a ‘rainbow quest’ involving over 50 wineries, coffee shops, restaurants, bars, and retailers who will offer ‘Pride-inspired’ drinks, food and other products. Proceeds from the campaign will, the organisers say, go to “supporting local businesses and organizations that advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as toward the creation of programs and events – such as queer meet ups and library book inclusivity initiatives – that aim to connect people through education, visibility, and fun.” There is also a scheme offering scholarships to LGBTQIA+ high school students.
The Oregon initiative illustrates the way some parts of the US wine industry are embracing diversity. Gallo’s Barefoot, the biggest wine brand in North America has been “a committed supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and LGBTQ+ causes since 1988”. Like its Oregon counterparts, Barefoot is very involved in Pride Month featuring widely in parade floats and parties.
Going Large in Australia
This year, Australian-based Treasury Wine Estates also announced its three-year partnership with the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras where it will the official wine supplier. The relationship will notably include Sydney WorldPride in 2023 which is expected to attract as many as a million visitors and will be the biggest event in the city since the 2000 Olympics.
Rising Number of Campaigns
Members of the wine industry who are outside the LGBTQIA+ community and have taken little interest in it, may be surprised how many wines and campaigns have been overtly or implicitly directed at it. A number of these from the last two decades are listed fascinatingly by marketing consultant Alfred Verhoeven on his marketingtherainbow.info blog. In it, he quotes the 2008 comment by leading US blogger and fellow marketer Tom Wark that “Marketing wine to the Gay community isn't brain surgery. You do it in the same way you'd market wine specifically to the Hispanic community or the baseball loving community or the community of middle aged snake charmers: you simply speak to them directly in a voice, with an attitude and with language that they'll recognize. In large part it's about paying attention to them and their specific world view.”
Maybe not in Florida
None of this inclusiveness will be welcomed, however, by some in Florida, where the state governor Ron DeSantis is in a fight with the Disney corporation over the Parental Rights in Education legislation he passed in May which has become known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. The law prohibits discussions of sexual orientation with children of under nine years old and potentially older. Similar bills are being considered in Kansas and Tennessee.
One of DeSantis’s most vocal opponents is Grammie-winning singer and LGBTQIA+ campaigner Brandi Carlile who is also a founding partner of wine brand, XOBC Cellars which this year launched a Proud Sparkling Rosé from Washington State. The motto behind XOBC, which supports Carlile’s Looking Out Foundation is “Because raising a glass can make a difference too”. It’s a sentiment with which Remy Drabkin and his fellow Oregon winemakers would certainly agree.