Is hip hop an entry to wine, or is wine an entry to hip hop? Either way, Jermaine Stone thinks they’re inseparable
How did you find your way into wine? For many of us, the path came via the dinner table. Introduced at a restaurant or at a friend’s or relative’s home, we found something compelling in the glass. Often this led to wine tastings, education, even work in the field. But Hip Hop?
Growing up, Jermaine Stone always thought his future was in rap and hip hop. To assist with college expenses, he took a temporary job in the shipping department at Zachy’s Wine Auctions in New York. He found he had a knack for logistics, client services, and auctions, so he shifted to a career in wine. Along the way, he founded and led Wally’s Wine Auctions and, most recently, his own Cru Luv Selections, a New York-based wine branding and marketing firm.
Never losing his passion for music, Stone started the Original Wine and Hip Hop Podcast in 2019. With the goal of bringing the two cultures together, his podcast features interviews with hip hop artists while chatting about wine. He also interviews a wide variety of winemakers, from Andrea and Robin McBride of McBride Sisters, to Jeremy Seyesses of Burgundy’s Domaine Dujac, and Saskia de Rothschild of Bordeaux’s Chȃteau Lafite Rothschild. These profile episodes dig into each wine personality’s specific interests in hip hop. As his profile has grown, he has expanded beyond just the podcast, to organizing events and hosting a Tastemade series, Street Somm.
I caught up with Stone at his recent Brooklyn to Burgundy event, Wine & Hip Hop at Château du Clos de Vougeot. The event brought together Burgundy winemakers and hip hop fans for an evening of hip hop at the storied château. The evening started with an open wine tasting featuring some of Burgundy’s most important domaines as well as winemakers from a new generation making waves in the tradition-bound region. I asked Jermaine if he brings hip hop people to wine or wine people to hip hop. “It’s a bit of both,” he says. “There are so many people in both that don’t realize they can be enjoyed together. We’ve been able to blend cultures through a mutual appreciation and respect for one another… respect is huge in wine, respect is huge in hip hop.”
When asked about wine experts looking down on people from other backgrounds, Stone echoes what many who are trying to democratize wine believe. “People often feel you need to know a lot about wine in order to enjoy it,” he says. “You don’t. You only need to be passionate about it. The people who genuinely appreciate wine enjoy and want to teach. That’s what we’re trying to celebrate here.”
With 100 podcast episodes to choose from, you’re sure to find someone interesting in hip hop culture. Stone’s hip hop guests may not know a lot about wine, but he manages to weave wine into the conversation rather effortlessly. Take episode #7, The Illest Vintage in Hip Hop Featuring Tony Rock. Tony Rock is a well known stand-up comedian and actor originally from Brooklyn. In the episode, Rock and Stone lay out their favorite artists and tracks from 1998 – the year Stone argues is second-to-none when it comes to hip hop. Jermaine opens a 1998 Domaine Dujac Charmes Chambertin from his cellar. The moment is both reverent and comic. “I like the fact that a brother wearing his hat backwards says ‘I found this in my cellar,’” jokes Rock.
Stone has featured multiple personalities from French wine regions. His work arranging wine shipments over the years has helped him cultivate strong relationships with many winemakers in France, who note that they have watched him grow up in wine. Stone gets nostalgic when talking about his connection to French wine and specifically to Burgundy. “I am the lost son of Burgundy,” he says with a smile. “White Burgundy was the first style of wine that turned me into a wine lover. I had worked in wine for 5-6 years and I drank wine but I wouldn’t say I was a wine lover. I became a wine lover one night, drinking older Burgundy at a BYOB tasting.”
Beyond a crash course in hip hop, wine enthusiasts will find plenty of notable personalities from the wine industry with each episode of Stone’s podcast. Conversations dig into serious topics like the wine industry’s failure to attract people of color and young drinkers, to offbeat subjects like “how wine culture has taken over the NBA.” He has interviewed Seyesses multiple times. During their first conversation in 2020 for episode 32 of the podcast, their discussion ranged from hip hop icon Jay Z’s mention of drinking Dujac “by the mag” to making the wine industry more inclusive. With wine industry guests, Stone always asks them for their hip hop spirit animal, their favorite artist, or the artist that turned them on to hip hop. Stones? Jay Z, of course, and Eminem.
While Stone’s stated goal of bringing the cultures together seems relatively straightforward, there’s more to it. He is working to help wine producers take a more inclusive approach to wine by shining a light on people of color and a younger generation. He’s highlighting their interests and venues where they can be reached, meeting consumers where they are – in many cases not where they’ve traditionally been.