Representation matters, says Audrey Annoh-Antwi, sommelier at Planque Restaurant, Haggerston, and ambassador for Be Inclusive Hospitality
I wanted to bring attention to two exceptional drinks industry professionals who are role models and mentors.
In this industry, representation really matters. Sometimes it is simply seeing someone like yourself in an industry where few people look like you, that assures you that not only is this space one for you, but one where you can excel and achieve great things.
These two are a small sample of people in the drinks industry that we should be championing every day. They demonstrate you can pave your own way and I raise my glass to them.
Magnavai (aka Mags) Janjo is a multi-hyphenated talent in the wine industry: importer, engaging wine educator and recipient of a Golden Vines scholarship to study the Master Of Wine. His wine-importing business MJ Wine Cellars was founded in 2019 with a focus on bringing eclectic wines from family-run wineries direct to consumers, wholesale, on trade and off trade. Coincidentally, 28% of MJ Wine Cellars listing is made by female winemakers and he is bringing the wines from Black-owned wineries to a broader audience. MJ Cellars is a trove.
The MJ Cellars portfolio is brimming with exceptional makers but a real standout are the wines from Aslina by Ntsiki Biyela. I had the pleasure of trying her wines and hearing her story at an event hosted by Sweet Spice Wines. She is South Africa's first female wine maker with many accolades for her wines. A wine of particular note is the Bordeaux-style blend made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, ‘Umsasane'. Translated from Zulu it means ‘the umbrella tree', which was the nickname for Ntsiki's grandmother, Aslina.
Ian Burrell is the world's only global rum ambassador. He is a guest judge, writer edu-tainer and created the world's first international rum festival in 2007, which continues to this day. He is also a co-founder of Equiano Rum, launched in 2020, the world's first premium African Caribbean rum with equity as one of its core principles. Five per cent of company profits and £2 from every bottle go towards freedom and equality projects annually. The brand is named after Olaudah Equiano, born in Nigeria in 1745, sold into slavery, eventually landing in the UK and saving enough money through trading rum on the side to buy his freedom.
Equiano has two rums, a light and a dark. The dark comes from two distilleries; Barbados' Four Square and Gray's in Mauritius.
Its chocolate, berry and orange zest depths are a consequence of cask treatment. The Bajan rum mingles with American white oak and the Mauritian with French limousin oak and ex-Cognac. The two are then merged in ex-bourbon cask culminating in a silky, warming sip.
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