This week we have caught up with Cha McCoy, a civil engineer-turned-wine expert and one of the few certified black female sommeliers in the world. Cha hosts casual wine pairing supper clubs and she is not fazed by travelling around the world for the perfect rendez-vous!

Tell us about Cha – how did you get started as a sommelier and how did you learn?
I am engineer by trade and worked as a senior Project Manager for over a decade. 
My first experience with wine professionally was in 2012 when I returned back to the US from living in Italy; I was hired to work in a wine shop in Harlem, New York. 
I started studying wine in the last 3 years again and became a Certified Sommelier and going through the WSET program.

What is your favourite terroir for wine?
Lorrie Valley, France.
Vinho Verde, Portugal.
Island wines from Sicily, Italy, Azores and Portugal

What are some of the best wines that you love to serve and how are they different from others?
I just love pairings to be honest, it’s all about the food that I am connecting the wine to. For instance for The Communion in London, I paired Cream Sherry with the chef Zoe Adjonyoh’s White Chocolate and Toasted Coconut Panna cotta w/ Hibiscus Syrup and Candied Plums. It was the first time I used Cream Sherry on my menus and it worked perfectly with white chocolate. It was a stunting pairing!

How do you stay educated with the current food and drink trend?Instagram, visiting vineyards, magazines such as Food & Wine, Wine Enthusiast, attending professional tastings and of course studying my text books as much as possible.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
Read a lot about the different  wine professional options.
It is easy to get pigeon hold and following the track to become a Sommelier because that is what we (as consumers) are exposed to, however, there are many wine focused professions. 
Do your research and that should guide which certification you should study from there. 

Tell us about The Communion. How did the idea take place?
The Communion was my answer to formalizing what I did already, hosting people in my apartment, with great wine, food and company.
Since I was the go to wine person, I would always bring the interesting wines for us to taste.
It also reminded me of my time of living in Italy where these type of gathering would take place more organically. 

What is your favourite food pairing?
OMG, there are so many!
It all depends on what I am in the mood for but. Since I am savoury snacker, I would say Champagne and Oysters, Blue Cheese and Port. And for a take-away I am craving right now my  favourite Meritage Red Blend and Jerk Chicken.

Where would you take your out of town guests for a memorable dinner?
In London, Noble Rot wine bar and restaurant and  Sager and Wilde.
In New York, Vinateria.
In Lisbon, Vino Vero wine bar.

What does the future hold for Cha McCoy?
Well, I can say for the near future you can expect more pop up wine dinning experiences and wine tourism.
I am hosting a trip through Southern Portugal next year during harvest season called HARVEST 2020.

And if you are already on your way to Lisbon, you can book a tasting with me via AirBnB Experiences
I hope to work with more chefs in London and have a wine bar location in Lisbon. 

Fill in the blank: if I weren’t a sommelier I’d be…
A winemaker and vineyard owner!

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