When entrepreneur Donae Burston founded his rosé wine brand La Fête du Rosé he did so with the mission to have people of color as his target audience. After spending more than 15 years in the wine and spirits industry, working with the likes of Dom Perignon, Moet & Chandon, and Hennessy, he saw how the industry lacked insight into what Black consumers truly wanted.
“I always felt like when I was working on some of those brands, that they were alienating people of color, just based upon what they thought we liked and what we didn’t like.” Burston explains. “And not really getting a true understanding of the psychographics.”
As Burston was marketing La Fête du Rosé, he faced resistance and microaggressions as he presented his multicultural brand to buyers and gatekeepers within the wine industry. He would often hear that the market for rosé was too saturated, despite the fact that it only accounts for 2% of US table wine sales.
There was also the assumption that his wine would be sweet-tasting, which was unfairly based on the long-standing stereotype that Black people only enjoy sweeter drinks. “[They would ask] is it sweet? Well, why would you say it’s sweet? Is it because I said that we’re trying to bring more people of color into the picture?” says Burston. La Fête du Rosé, as he explains, is a more of a traditional rosé and leans towards the dry side.
Despite his struggles in marketing the label, the wine now stands as the only Black-owned brand being produced in Saint-Tropez, France. Burston met the owner of Domaine Bertaud Belieu, which is where La Fête du Rosé is produced, while on vacation in the area some years back, “We struck up a friendship and I stayed in contact with him, And [when] I let him know I wanted to do this project, he was open to it”.
Burston’s story is indicative of how far the wine industry has to go until it can claim it’s anywhere close to diverse. It’s estimated that of the 8,000 wineries in the USA, only one-tenth of 1% of the winemakers and brand owners are Black.
With these statistics and the multiple barriers that come with entering this industry Burston advocates mentorship and education. His biggest piece of advice to young people of color wishing to break into the wine and spirits sector is to first know the ins-and-out. “You need to know your industry as much as you can because that’s one of the biggest hurdles I should say for people of color especially in the wine industry.”
Many would consider the pandemic as one of the roughest times to be an entrepreneur, but Burston saw it as a prime time to truly connect with his customers on a deeper level. “[The pandemic] forced everybody to slow down and pay attention. So if you were marketing online [last summer], consumers were at home and they could see what [we were] doing”, says Burston.
That, along with resurgence of the Black Lives Movement helped spotlight Black-owned businesses and made mainstream retailers realize that they need to carry brands that cater to all of their customers, not just a select few. That new awareness led to a spike in interest in his brand - currently it’s sold out on his site, although it’s slated to come back in the next few months. In the meantime you can find it in select wine shops along with major hotels like Surf Lodge in Montauk, 1 Hotel South Beach in Miami, and the Freehand Hotel in Los Angeles to name a few. Burston is also in the process of adding his wine to major national retailers.
The interest from these national retailers is welcome but Burston also wants to advocate for marketing that doesn’t relegate Black-owned brands to specific sections or shelves. He’s proud to be a part of the small pool of Black-owned wine labels, which is why he encourages stores to think about presenting products to customers as an organic extension of the overall lineup. His rosé can and should be on the same shelf as others from the same region, regardless of who owns them. The same can be said for products from all Black-owned businesses. That’s just one of the many steps towards achieving diversity, not just in the wine industry but in the retail world as a whole.
To help you diversify your wine collection, we asked Donae to recommend his favorite wines from six Black-owned and operated brands.
We’re recommending these products because we actually use, and like, them. Things you buy through our links may earn us a commission.
La Fête du Rosé
“I know I’m a bit biased but what I love about La Fête Rosé is our mission to change the way rosé is consumed and marketed in America. We’re flipping the narrative that it’s only for the summer, light on substance, and consumed mainly by women. Our luxury wine pairs amazingly with all types of food and can be drunk all year long. It has hints of strawberry, hazelnut, and leans on the dry side.”
Lyons Private Reserve Lambrusco
“Created by tech entrepreneur Chris Lyons, who leads the Cultural Leadership Fund for VC Powerhouse Andersen Horowitz in Silicon Valley, this sleekly bottled red wine is another favorite. I love how he’s bringing back Lambrusco - it used to be very popular. Produced in Emilia-Romagna, it has cherry and blackberry flavors. The brand recommends that you pair it with Northern Italian pastas or lasagna, grilled meat, or spicy foods.”
Maison Noir Love Drunk Rosé
“Haven’t we all felt like we have been drunk in love at one point or another in life? While the name is really catchy, the story behind it is even better. It’s produced by wine industry veteran Andre Mack. Andre cut his teeth as the sommelier at prestigious restaurants like Per Se and French Laundry before launching Maison Noir wines. This is a great rosé produced here in the US.”
Bodkin Blanc de Sauvignon Blanc - Cuvée Agincourt
“This is the first sparkling Sauvignon Blanc ever produced in the United States. Chris Christensen has pushed boundaries with this product. I absolutely love that he took two of my favorite things, Sauvignon Blanc and bubbles, to create this amazing wine.”
Brown Estate 2019 Chaos Theory
“They are OG’s of the game! The Brown family are the pioneers of the Black winemaking industry: They purchased an abandoned ranch in the Napa Valley in the 1980′s, rehabilitated it, and as they say, the rest is history. While they’re known worldwide for their Zinfandels, you should try this perfect blend that incorporates Merlot, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet Sauvignon”
Chosen Family Chardonnay
“We’ve read the stories about NBA players’ love for fine wine and Channing Frye is the real deal! His passion goes beyond the price tag and rarity, he’s honing skills as a true vintner working alongside his winemaker partners to create a range of truly amazing boutique wines out of Oregon.
This chardonnay is currently sold out but keep an eye on the brand. It’s definitely worth picking up when it’s back.”