It’s not easy being a wine gal in the city of vodka sodas and Mojitos. That thirst for something new and different found within the 750ml glass bottle you know and love so much is difficult to satiate when you’re confronted with gold-encrusted liquor shots at the new late night hot spot. Miami has been the city of cocktails but things are changing in the beverage world of South Florida, and Miami’s wine scene is coming alive as people take more interest in the wonderful world of quality wines.

This could be driven a great deal by the incredible offerings of the FIU Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management in the areas of wine and spirits management and education. Even long-standing wine industry institutions such as Wine Spectator magazine have taken note of the program and provided funding and a name for the FIU Hospitality campus’ educational restaurant. The U.S. Sommelier Association also has a location on Miami Beach, and offers on-site sommelier certification courses right here on Lincoln Road. Winemakers from across the country descend annually on South Florida for the American Fine Wine Invitational, which boasts being one of the most prominent fine wine competitions in the world open exclusively to American wines. Many of the VIP judging & tasting events associated with the competition happen in the Miami area. These are all clear signs that the city is being noticed by those in one of the most notoriously elitist industries around, and local opportunities for excellence are available.

While Miami’s wine culture needs time to grow to be ready for the comparison with developed U.S. wine markets, such as San Francisco or even Washington, DC, we can already take a credit for originality. Around town, local spots pop up to offer an opportunity to discover the latest wine tends from around the world. Wine bars such as Vinos in the Grove and Happy Wine have led the way in providing as close to an authentic bodega feel for locals and tourists to meet, drink, and eat in classic wine lifestyle fashion. Secret hideouts like El Carajo, tucked away in the back of a gas station off US-1, give Miami oenophiles a place of refuge from the cocktail culture that dominates the beverage scene. It’s always good to walk into one of the few wine hideouts and feel like you’ve found your people & a bottle worth an extra conversation.

a connoisseur of wines

Despite Florida being one of top consumers of wine in the nation, there’s still a lot of progress that needs to be made before Miami can gain the respect as a major wine city. With the dedication and passion of those of us who consider ourselves the wine champions of the area, perhaps we can help Miami earn a spot on the list of fine wine cities of mention.

Photo © Ekaterina Juskowski

Jacqueline Coleman
Jacqueline Coleman

4th-Generation Miamian and certified sommelier writing about South Florida’s lifestyle.

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