The warmer weather may call for drinking a glass- or bottle!- of cold, crisp rose, but as I discovered through my personal experience this past winter, the wine is perfect to imbibe on all year long.
It’s refreshing with a flavor profile that compliments everything from Indian food to sushi (two of my favorite cuisines) and is a mood booster that takes me on a vacation to a sunny destination without leaving home.
My go-to rose this year was new to me until I tried it on a trip to Kiawah Island several months ago, and now, my husband and I simply can’t get enough. Hello La Fête, how fabulous you are.
Founded in 2019 by Donae Burston, who had a storied career at LVMH working for brands such as Dom Perignon and Ruinart, it was the fastest-growing luxury imported rosé label in 2021 and now ranks as the number three luxury imported rosé brand in the US. With its notes of toasted nuts, dried apricots and ripe fruits, La Fête is an instant crowd pleaser.
The bottom line is that you need to drink this wine. It’s produced in Provence, a place that’s close to Donae’s heart.
He spoke to me recently about why he started the label and his aspirations for the brand. And he also gave me the lowdown on his white expression, which I hope to try this weekend if I can get my hands on a bottle.
What inspired you to start the La Fête Rose?
As a long-time fan of rosé, I noticed a problem in the US: the category was being pigeonholed into a stereotype. Rosé was often marketed as a summertime beverage meant solely for women, and the associations with pink flowers felt limiting and outdated. In France, where I fell in love with the drink over a decade ago, rosé is enjoyed by all kinds of people at any time of the year. I wanted to bring that inclusivity and deliciousness to the United States by creating a Provence Rosé brand that defies stereotypes and invites everyone to enjoy it. At La Fête, we are on a mission to redefine the way the world perceives and consumes wine.
Why did you choose Provence as the place to produce the wine? After all, there are a lot of places where you can make rose.
Provence is the birthplace of rosé wine making, setting the standard for the rest of the world. If you’re going to make rosé wine, Provence is where you want to be. More specifically, St. Tropez is where I had my first taste of rosé; it’s a place that holds a lot of nostalgia and sentimental value to me. Much like the best sparkling wines come from Champagne and the best Pinot Noirs are made in Burgundy, when it comes to rosé wines – if it’s not from Provence, it’s simply not the best. Provence stands alone as the unrivaled producer of world-class rosés.
Where in Provence exactly is the rose made, and how did you find the vineyard?
Our wine is produced along the Gulf of St. Tropez, in the town of Cogolin, in collaboration with the renowned winemakers from Chateau St. Maur, one of the region’s 18 Cru Classé estates. Our partnership began when a mutual friend in the French wine industry introduced us, knowing I was seeking a winemaking team who shared my vision of excellence and with whom I could grow as the business expanded. During a personal meeting with the owner, Mr. Zannier, in St. Tropez, we connected instantly and knew we had found our ideal partner.
Tell me about your white wine. What’s the flavor profile like? What grapes is it made with?
Our inaugural La Fête du Blanc release in 2021 boasted a predominance of Rolle (Vermentino) grapes, setting it apart from more typical French white wines (in the market) that rely on Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. The 2022 Vintage presents an exciting blend of Rolle and Viognier, resulting in a bright, balanced and fresh alternative to White Burgundy and Sancerre wines.
Can you talk about the trajectory of the brand and how it’s grown?
Over the past four years, we’ve experienced truly meteoric growth, fueled by strong consumer demand and trade endorsement. While the pandemic posed some challenges, we adapted and became more strategic in 2021. However, we discovered that even with great marketing, it was difficult for consumers to find La Fête while venturing out again. Despite these obstacles, we’re thrilled to report that we’ve expanded to 34 states across the US, where La Fête can be found in leading luxury hotels and restaurants, and select retailers.
Our sales are on track to surpass 30K cases in 2023. In addition, La Fête du Blanc, which was introduced as a limited item in 2021 as a token of appreciation for our valued customers, has been added to our permanent line-up due to high demand and positive feedback.
I am also excited to announce our upcoming expansion across France, the UK, Mexico and the Caribbean, and West Africa this year. I am looking forward to bringing our brand to new markets and continuing our path of growth.
What are some challenges you’ve had along the way?
Similarly to most of our industry peers, the pandemic caused massive disruptions to our supply chain, leading to sky-high global freight rates and raw material prices. Being a new brand, we could not pass these costs onto the consumers, which dramatically impacted our profit margin and ability to reinvest in the business. On the agricultural front, late spring freezes and wildfires across the Provence region reduced yields and drove up grape prices last year.
On the home front, convincing consumers and gatekeepers that not all rosé wines are equal remains an ongoing task. We see the needle moving and my team continues to engage daily to change category perceptions.
How do you stay competitive among all the rose brands on the market?
At La Fête, we never follow a traditional approach to wine branding. Our team is composed of experts who have years of experience marketing luxury spirits and Champagne. We take inspiration from the best practices that helped those brands succeed and apply them to our work at La Fête. Our strategies are non-traditional, and we aim to make La Fête a part of every consumer’s drinks collection for any occasion – sports events, festivals, culinary experiences, cultural festivals, cocktails, you name it. Our younger team members also keep us current with the latest trends and in tune with the cultural pulse. This helps us make real-time decisions and adjust our marketing tactics, account selection, events, etc.
Have you had any disadvantages or advantages because you’re Black?
As a Black individual in the spirits industry, I possess a unique advantage that has helped me stand out among my peers. My experience serving in marketing roles for such esteemed icons as Veuve Clicquot and Dom Perignon has garnered significant attention and credibility within the industry. This, coupled with my diligent work, has proven invaluable in establishing my own brand, La Fête. Through my network and perseverance, I was able to capture the attention and interest of industry leaders, restauranteurs, distributors, and executives, from the very onset of my entrepreneurial venture.
What do you love about Provence specifically?
From quaint hillside villages that seem frozen in time to vibrant port cities along the coast, Provence is a majestic region with its iconic umbrella pine trees, surrounded by the blue waters of the Mediterranean. And of course, its unforgettable wines!
Author: Shivani Vora