Between wine tastings, speaking engagements, planning an annual wine festival and awards luncheon, running a nationwide wine community, and being a mom, it’s safe to say that Tahiirah Habibi is a busy woman. But maintaining a tight yet full schedule is something she’s used to.
Before founding the Hue Society — an organization focused on inclusivity and access for Black wine professionals and consumers — she was the wine director of Florida hotspots Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink and Bâoli Miami. Before that, she was one of the original sommeliers to help launch and curate the wine list at the luxury St. Regis Bal Harbour hotel.
Despite so many responsibilities and duties, Habibi does enjoy a little comfort, usually in the form of a glass of wine. “There was a time when I was having a glass of wine every day. I cut back a lot to just the weekends, unless I’m doing a tasting,” she says.
Although Pinot Noir is her favorite grape, the Atlanta-based sommelier and educator appreciates all facets of wine.
“I love to geek out on wine. I love wines that are made in different ways. If I hear about a new method, I want to try it. Or grapes people are bringing back, ancient grapes and stuff like that,” she says. “I do love wine and not necessarily just for the taste, because it’s a very human, personal process.”
Habibi adds: “There are people who create this. The land grows this. It’s such an intimate thing. Wine is a living, breathing thing. It changes and that’s very fascinating. It morphs. It has a shelf life. It’s pretty cool, and it’s a pretty big part of my life.”
“There are people who create this. The land grows this. It’s such an intimate thing. Wine is a living, breathing thing. It changes and that’s very fascinating. It morphs. It has a shelf life. It’s pretty cool, and it’s a pretty big part of my life.”
A graduate of Pennsylvania State University, Habibi was introduced to wine during her days as an undergrad. An active student, she held many campus leadership roles, which gave her the chance to attend receptions and galas where wine was served. When she graduated, she fell into food and wine after landing a job as a hostess at the Kimpton Hotel Palomar restaurant in her Philadelphia hometown.
Fast forward to more recent times, Habibi has been widely recognized for her efforts to improve economic inclusion and accessibility in wine for Black people. She was the first Black woman featured on the cover of Wine Enthusiast magazine for the publication’s 40 Under 40 issue in 2020. And soon, she’ll be paying it forward by recognizing the industry professionals within her community at the third annual Wine & Culture Fest, a three-day showcase starting August 27, 2021, aimed at connecting Black winemakers, industry professionals, and consumers; the 2021 Roses & Rosé Awards luncheon, the festival’s closing event, was created to celebrate the accomplishments of Black and Brown folks who work in wine in some capacity.
Afterward, Habibi will likely take a moment to wind down and reflect on the thing that got her this far in the first place: wine. Particularly rosé, which is her current wine obsession.
“We’re leaving the summer, and I think it’s important to amplify the fact that you can drink rosé year-round,” she says. “And I love the fact that you can make rosé in different styles based on technique, and the styles of rosé can range from just everyday drinking to food. There are some rosés that work absolutely well with food.” Here, Habibi recommends three rosé wines to pair with soul food.
3 rosés to pair with soul food:
Looking for something to wash down all the crab legs, sausages, potatoes, and ears of corn at your next crab boil? Habibi recommends Bodkin Wines’ sparkling rosé, composed of Zinfandel, Syrah, Albariño, Chenin Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc. “It’s a little bit more dry, a medium-body sparkler. You can drink this all by itself, but it’s exceptional with seafood platters and crab boils and really compliments the flavors incorporated in those types of seafood dishes.”
Founded by Howard University alumni Aaron Coad and Terrence Low, and their partners sommelier Devin Kennedy and Brandon Crump, Michael Lavelle sources Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Grigio grapes grown across coastal California to create this rosé. Habibi says it’s a perfect partner for decadent comfort foods like macaroni and cheese or something as simple as a grilled cheese sandwich. “It’s a pretty easy-going rosé and it’s not so astringent that it will take away from a meal,” she says.
The lightly carbonated rosé by Brendel Wines comes from Napa Valley vineyards where organic farming is key. The wine is made with Grignolino, a red grape originally grown in the Piedmont area of northern Italy that arrived in California by way of winemakers at Heitz Cellars Winery, where Brendel sources fruit for some of its wines. Habibi likes to pair the Frizzante, a semi-sparkling wine, with golden, deep-fried, deliciousness. “Drink that with some fried chicken, and it’s going to be amazing,” she says. “The bubbles will clean your palate and the fruit is going to calm down the spice of the chicken.”