We’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it: Black women are magical. Not only do we set trends in beauty, fashion, music—and the list goes on—but we’ve also mastered the art of taking up space in rooms and industries that weren’t designed initially or created for us to do so. The same notion can be said for Black women who successfully take up space across France’s wine regions—some of the world’s most prestigious spaces.
Sommelier Tanisha Townsend, B. Stuyvesant Champagne brand owner Marvina Robinson, and wine consultant and judge Julia Coney are just a handful of the women involved heavily in the historic French industry. We spoke briefly with each woman to learn more about their part in France’s wine region, how they are received and perceived in the rooms they command, as well as what piqued their interest in wine in the first place.
Marvina Robinson-Owner, B. Stuyvesant Champagne
Birthed in Brooklyn but produced in Champagne, France, Marvina Robinson launched her brand as an extension of a pastime between her and her closest friends in their college years. What started as them going to the local bodega, pooling their money together, and purchasing a bottle of bubbly on the weekend has now blossomed into a growing Black woman-owned champagne brand.
Robinson travels to France at least once a quarter, for around four to six weeks, to check on her brand’s harvest and production.
“I chose to create and produce my brand, B. Stuyvesant Champagne, in France due to the profound inspiration drawn from the region’s rich history and expertise in champagne production,” she tells ESSENCE. “The Champagne region of France has an unparalleled legacy and tradition in crafting exceptional sparkling wines, and it stands as the very birthplace of champagne as we know it today. I knew I wanted to offer genuine bubbly, and of course, champagne can only be champagne if it comes from the Champagne region of France.”
Being a Black woman making a mark in the champagne region holds profound personal significance for the champagne brand owner. It’s a testament to breaking boundaries and shattering stereotypes in an industry often perceived as exclusive and traditional. It symbolizes resilience and the power of representation, showing that excellence knows no bounds.
“Personally, it means being a trailblazer and paving the way for more diversity and inclusivity in the world of champagne,” she adds. “It’s about showcasing that talent, passion, and innovation can come from anyone, regardless of background. It’s a source of pride in celebrating my heritage and demonstrating that there are no limits to what one can achieve.”
Julia Coney-Wine, Consultant and Judge
If you’ve attended wine events and culinary festivals like Chef Kwame Onwuachi’s Family Reunion or Oregon’s long-running International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC), you’ve likely either run into or heard Julia Coney speaking on a panel or leading a seminar.
Not only is she a well-respected wine consultant for major companies like American Airlines, but the DC-based aficionado also spends much of her time traveling to France to lend her expertise in many spaces.
“I travel to France for wine work at least 3–4 times a year. The work varies,” Coney shares. “If it’s for clients where I’m the wine expert leading them through the various wine regions, I explain the history and style of the region and the producers who make wine I enjoy drinking and ultimately think they will too.”
“If I’m visiting as media or as a wine judge, that can include tasting up to 75 or more wines a day, meeting winemakers, and visiting vineyards,” she continues. “It sounds a lot of more glamorous than it is. The days are long and a lot of information, but I enjoy what I do.”
Like most non-majority Black spaces, Coney has learned to navigate the ebbs and flows of being “othered”—and she does it gracefully.
“I don’t spend time “proving” my knowledge of wine. I am good at my job and proud of my work in the industry.”
Tanisha Townsend-Paris-based wine educator and podcast host
Tanisha Townsend moved to Paris in 2014, a time she describes when things were falling apart in her life.
“I was offered the opportunity to teach wine courses at a business school in Paris,” Townsend explains. “I taught Luxury Wine & Spirits and European Wine Sciences. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.”
Fast-forward nine years later, she runs her brand, Girl Meets Glass, from the French capital. Not only is she still teaching classes at Parisian universities, but she also hosts international tourists who want to learn more about the vast wine region.
While much of her day-to-day involves lesson plans and answering emails, it also means taking the nearly 1-hour trip to Champagne to conduct tours of some of the area’s most historic and luxurious champagne houses and tasting rooms.
“Being a Black woman here is different from the US in that I’m an American first, which is seen as an advantage. But my mere existence and life in France is how I’m taking up space. Attending events as the only Black woman (or person), being one of a few (or maybe the only) Black professor someone has had.”
“I’m also very intentional about my purpose in my work; I know what spaces I’m supposed to be in and which ones just aren’t for me. This way I can best highlight my skills and strengths, always showing up as the best version of myself,” she adds.