Long-time member of the Black wine community, and Associate Producer of the film, DLynn Proctor–also with a cameo–tells us how the film provides a “real look into black representation in the global wine industry.”
If you haven’t watched ‘Uncorked’ on Netflix yet, do it. Part fact part fiction, the film is based around a black man’s journey in the wine business. This is the first Hollywood wine feature to include a predominantly black cast, focusing solely on one black man’s wine journey falling in love with wine, and diving into the world of fine wine education and sommeliers. This film was written and directed by Prentice Penny, who wrote the script in 2014, it then premiered in March 2020 on Netfilx and stayed at #1 for close to a week. Six years in the making, this film is one that is truly helping to bring to life a black family, where a father is truly present, is generationally successful, travels and also aspires a young black man to be in the wine business, historically dominated by older white men.
Meet DLynn Proctor, named Best Sommelier in America, a Sommelier by trade, and a star in all of the SOMM films. He is a man who loves hockey, fine wine, single malt scotch and believes in the power of a liquid passport. You might also recognize him from the 2012 documentary, “Somm” — available on SommTV.com — and all 3-films are worth watching. Yes, he is black, yes he is a sommelier and YES this film helps to tell some of his story as a black sommelier. Prentice Penny showed Proctor the original script in 2015, and was introduced through Proctor’s brother (Datari Turner), Prentice allowed Proctor to edit and add his cultural flare and his life lens to the script of the film. This film and real life journey was translated by Hollywood to the screen by a fantastic team who worked together to bring truth, nuanced quotes, comments, hip hop references and wine industry vernacular to add spice, real life circumstances and humour to the film,
In the film DLynn Proctor helps to bring black musical talent to the wine industry by comparing wine grapes and styles to some of the most well-known hip artists. Prentice Penny had the original idea of bringing hip hop to the film and Proctor helped to elevate these comparisons. In the beginning of the film, a woman walks into the wine shop and is looking for a bottle of white wine, but is unsure of what to drink. Elijah begins to explain how Pinot Grigio is like Kanye, from simple and easy, to grand cru and the best. He goes on to compare Chardonnay to Jay Z, classic and consistent and Riesling to Drake, all about feelings and history. This is one of my favourite parts of the film.
DLynn Proctor recounts how as a young studying sommelier he didn’t initially get to travel to Bordeaux or Paris or anywhere in Europe, he cracked open a book on wine and studied three times harder than anyone else. He remembers in 2000, not having enough money to fly to Europe for a major wine fair and he started to reach out to wineries and vintners. There were a few great mentors for him who helped him travel and they invested in his talent. In the film Elijah, studying to be a sommelier, has to sell his car to go Paris, and although Proctor never sold his car, he remembers he never had the cash to get to Europe or being able to travel like many of his white friends.
We talked a lot of alternative voices in the business and how much they are needed in the future of the wine business. He tells me that he feels the hospitality industry is one, if not the most, accepting industries in the world, and encourages anyone who is interested to find a way to elevate the industry to challenge norms and bring personality to the future of wine through innovation and excitement. I ask him what it felt like as a young black man in the wine business and he says, “You know, I would just show up at tastings, and be the best person I could be, I was smart enough and humble enough to know I had to work hard to earn my place.” Now working at Fantesca on Spring Mountain in Napa Valley, and having worked at Penfolds for almost a decade, he’s traded in his custom suit and ties for hoodies and runners in the vineyards.
Proctor worked in hospitality for the majority of his career, and started bussing tables as a teenager. Being inspired by the wine business he worked his way up to being a true global star in the wine business. Uncorked helps to tell the story of a young man inspired by wine, studying to become a sommelier, and traveling for the first time.
DLynn Proctor and I have known each other for over 10-years, I met him in Toronto and he immediately inspired me. We both agree that alternative voices should have been accepted so much sooner in this industry. He quotes that 71% of buyers in Michelin star restaurants are white men and 21-23% are women – and that these numbers need to change to allow for more alternative voices. He mentions to me that his nephew now 23 years old, has travelled to every major wine region, and been to many high end restaurants (with his help!). He knows how to delicately read a wine list and find the gems on the list, and is super educated about wine. “He is not rich,” he explains, “he works at a cannabis shop and rides his skateboard to work and he knows how and where to spend his money.” He speaks that now more than ever education and travel is open to people when you make it a priority.