The room was like a dark and sultry tropical oasis with palms and flowers hanging from the ceiling and propped against the walls. The music was thumping, the energy was high, and the bubbly flowed throughout the night. The air outside gave all indications of a New York City fall, but inside the basement lounge at Ketchy Shuby, guests were transported to a Mediterranean summer. It was a fitting setting to celebrate the release of Issa Rae’s new bubbly, ViaRae.
In a partnership with E. & J. Gallo, the Emmy and Golden Globe nominee created a vintage dated Prosecco DOC, made entirely of Glera, the native Italian grape used to make the country’s signature lively and crisp style of sparkling wine. La Marca, a Treviso, Italy cooperative owned by E. & J. Gallo, is behind the grape and wine production. The fruit for ViaRae Prosecco comes from an area near the Piave River, where the moderate climate and well-drained soils result in a wine that shows up with fruity characteristics, high acidity, and elegance in the glass.
“It represents my best memories, and it’s something that I constantly want to have around when I’m with my girls and my family, celebrating their accomplishments, celebrating my own. Prosecco is that for me,” Rae said, noting that it was the wine she shared with Melina Matsoukas, Insecure’s executive director and pilot director, during their first meeting many years ago.
The sparkling wine was also a staple prop on the series. Throughout its five seasons, Rae’s character Issa Dee and friends Molly (Yvonne Orji), Kelli (Natasha Rothwell), and Tiffany (Amanda Seales) were often seen pouring glasses of Prosecco to commemorate the highs and lows of their lives. And the characters’ love for the wine had an impact on viewers, too. According to Rae, fans have consistently shared that her show convinced them to try it. That ultimately encouraged her to move forward with one of her own.
“I wanted people to taste something that comes from me and is of me,” Rae said.
Rae’s partnership with E. & J. Gallo came following months of research and conversations with people in the wine business. “I spoke with several companies before I embarked on this journey with Gallo. It was really important as I went to these tastings and met the teams behind each of these companies that they understood the story behind [my Prosecco] and how much Prosecco meant to me,” Rae explained.
She added, “I’m appreciative of Gallo, who not only [understood what I wanted] but was on it immediately and helped me create something I know I won’t get tired of.”
Like most Prosecco, ViaRae is bright, lively, and crisp. But the wine is so much more than that, with inescapable citrus and green apple aromas and an effervescent, fruity, and flavorful palate that is refreshing and refined. Every sip invites the next, giving the Prosecco a dangerous drinkability — one glass simply isn’t enough. And while the sparkling wine can certainly put one in the mind frame of sipping in the sunshine along the Italian coastline, Rae insists that the wine is intended for drinking anytime, anywhere, with anyone. But as guests at Wednesday’s launch party could attest, the bubbly is best with a good time.
ViaRae’s approachable price point only adds to its value. The Prosecco is expected to hit the shelves at select retailers and on-premise establishments for about $19 later this month.
Rae joins a growing list of Black celebrities to enter the wine industry with their own bottles, including John Legend’s LVE Wines, Wade Cellars by Dwyane Wade, Domaine Curry by Ayesha Curry, E40’s Earl Stevens Selections, Snoop Dogg’s Cali Red and Death Row Records Wine, and Sun Goddess Wines by Mary J. Blige, among others.