Divas Uncorked

Wine group draws attention to African American women wine drinkers.

When Stephanie Browne started Divas Uncorked in 1999, all she had in mind was getting together with her friends to taste and learn about wine.

Now the Divas, ten-strong, have become a force to be reckoned with. "We've blossomed into a national organization, working with the wine industry to improve how they interact with women and people of color," explains Browne, a Boston-area information technologist who, in addition to being the group's webmaster at www.divasuncorked.com, is a senior executive with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts.

Wine Enthusiast: What is a "diva"?

Stephanie Browne: A diva is sophisticated, knows what she likes, and won't let anyone tell her anything different.

WE: Why the focus on women?

SB: Well, I don't know if men need help with wine. I don't think women are comfortable making those [wine] purchases, and there's an opportunity to expand that by looking at the retail industry.

WE: What message do you have for the industry?

SB: Do research on how women like to buy, and what environment they like, and cater to that! You will get younger women who may not now have places to shop where they feel comfortable.

WE: What kind of wine store makes women feel comfortable?

SB: Something appealing and fresh. Here [in New England] package stores tend to be dank, dark and dirty, although things are changing. There's a store called Brix, in Boston, owned by 2 women who've done a fantastic job creating a great environment.

WE: What message are you conveying to African Americans about wine?

SB: Several. You don't have to be a brain surgeon to drink it! Wine is a beverage that anybody can enjoy. And a good one doesn't have to cost hundreds of dollars. Finally, wine is about your taste, not what anyone else thinks. Once you figure out your tastes, you can find any wine on the shelf to match that. It's not as hard as people think.

WE: Has your husband, Basil, been supportive of your Diva activities? And who makes the wine buying decisions in your household?

SB: [laughs] Basil is very supportive. He's been drinking wine for a long time. Who makes the decisions? I probably buy most of the wine, but I buy wine I know he likes! We both have our batches. He likes more robust wines than I do. I'm more of a fruity, aromatic person. I actually like Zinfandel better than anything.

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