The wine and spirits world is a vast one and once someone considers how few Black creators and founders are in that space, it becomes isolated as well. Hoping to shift the perception in the appreciation of bubbles not just with Black consumers but for all who enjoy solid choices when imbibing, B. Stuyvesant Champagne founder Marvina Robinson brings her Brooklyn flair and well-researched findings to produce a bubbly worthy of a conversation.
Bed-Stuy State Of Mind
Robinson spoke recently with Spirit.Ed columnist D.L. Chandler about the early days of learning how to approach and appreciate champagne, which later sparked her to leave a solid Wall Street career behind and take the bold step of ownership. In the brief chat, Robinson’s warm Brooklyn accent and deep knowledge of all things champagne shined through.
Robinson discovered champagne in her 20s while attending Norfolk State University en route to a degree in biology. While home on breaks, Robinson and her friends from the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood where they grew up would get together over a bottle of fancy bubbles.
“When we would come home for breaks, this was our time to hang out, catch up, talk twenty-year-old girl stuff,” Robinson begins. “That’s how I first got into champagne, but back then, I didn’t appreciate it as much as I do now. We just thought to grab a bottle because you hear the songs on the radio talking about it.
She continued, “Even when I got into drinking Cosmopolitans, I always migrated back to bubbles.”
Robinson then explained that while she enjoyed her Cosmos, champagne earned her affection due to the fact that bartenders were inconsistent in getting the quality of her favorite cocktail correct. For Robinson, champagne was typically a safer bet when going out.
“Before I began B. Stuyvesant, I worked on Wall Street, and going out after work and having drinks was a part of the journey, but drinking like that adds up,” Robinson says. “Liquor is hard, and it hits you hard. And I always think it feels more elegant to have a flute in my hand versus a standard Cosmo or another cocktail.”
Aesthetics aside, Robinson added that champagne is an easier way to enjoy drinking without the added anxiety of inconsistency, and it also allowed her to enjoy the drink at a leisurely pace instead of slamming one back and calling it a day. But that doesn’t mean that one should expect all champagnes to be created equal, as Robinson artfully broke down.
“Not all champagnes are the same. Just like everyone’s fried chicken isn’t the same, it’s also like that for wine and champagne,” Robinson said with a laugh. “There is some fried chicken I won’t eat, just like there are champagnes some folks just won’t like. I always tell people that if you want to enjoy champagne, treat it like a journey and explore it.”
Enter B. Stuyvesant Champagne
A question that was posed is that how does an undergraduate biology major and graduate school finance major shift from a viable career in the hallowed environs of Wall Street to go out on a limb and serve up bubbly to the masses? For Robinson, the risk was less daunting than sitting back and not taking the leap.
“I started from scratch and there’s no playbook. I got my introduction the way I did but I knew that if I had a vineyard to work with me to produce a high-quality product, then getting them enthused about it would be the next big step,” Robinson shared of the early days of B. Stuyvesant.
Robinson sources her grapes from a vineyard in France, using the traditional Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay grapes that most champagnes around the world use for their versions. Currently, B. Stuyvestant offers a Grand Reserve Brut and a Rosé. B. Stuyvesant is also introducing a Demi-Sec version this spring and other offerings throughout the course of the year as the brand portfolio expands.
Robinson says that while she’s aware of the scarcity of Black women in the wine and bubbly industry, she doesn’t see it as a barrier or blockade to the continued success of the brand.
“I’m always thinking and I’m always hustling. I left a job with full benefits, paid vacations, but all I’m focused on now is that I’m not going to fall flat on my face and I’m going to make this brand work,” Robinson said.
“I never wanted to an entrepreneur. I wanted to be a managing director, heading up my own trading desk. I’m starting over in my 40s. I don’t get burdened by the weight of being a Black woman in this space and I’m grateful for the kind words but I’m just moving on good faith and good work,” Robinson concluded.
Robinson shared in the chat that she will continue to host the online cooking and tasting program Bubbles & Brunch, along with an upcoming cookbook that shows champagne’s innovative applications in cooking not unlike bourbon, rum, and other spirits.
To learn more about B. Stuyvesant Champagne, click here.
Photo: B. Stuyvesant