Uncorked & Cultured

Subscribe to our newsletter for weekly chronicles of wine + wellness and culture + adventure.

Donae Burston uses Black Wine Culture to Disrupt the Industry

black wine culture donae burston

La Fête is a party and everyone’s invited. Donae Burston is bringing Black Wine Culture to a rosé party that doesn’t end in the summer.

By Sedale McCall

Fans of Black wine culture know the name La Fête du rosé, or La Fête. Literally translated as “The Party,” this is a wine meant for any occasion where people are together. The emcee of this party, if you will, is Donae Burston. A Baltimore native, he brought his culture all the way to the south of France. Now he wants to take everyone with him.

Rooted in Culture

Burston’s journey begins in Baltimore, Maryland, specifically Randallstown, where he spent most of his life. He left Randallstown as a college student for Atlanta, where he attended Clark Atlanta University. His degree, however, came from Georgia Tech, where he majored in Industrial Engineering.

“It surprised even my mom, because I had never mentioned Clark or Atlanta during the college application process,” says Burston. “However, moving to Atlanta turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The opportunities and connections I gained here are priceless, and I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Though Industrial Engineering sounds fancy, it didn’t always pay the bills. To supplement his career in IT consulting he decided to help a friend who owned several clubs in the area, handing out drink tickets. As he grew and learned the party scene, he continued to work with alcohol brands at events. This ultimately turned into a brand ambassador role for those brands. That serendipity led to a role as a promotions manager at Heineken. He then went on to spend eight years at Moët Hennessy, and three more with Jay-Z’s champagne brand, Champagne Armand de Brignac.

While at Moët Hennessy, which later became LVMH, Burston launched the first and only champagne bar in the Miami Heat American Airlines arena. His wine and spirits tenure spanned 15 years until he started his own venture.

Early challenges

Unfortunately, going from a leader in the space, to a business owner was not all rosé and sunshine. Burston, in Uncorked and Cultured’s 2021 State of Black Wine Business Forum, shared how he struggled interacting with some of his contemporaries once he no longer retained a certain title.

“Coming from a large wine and spirits company, and seeing the way distributors and retailers fall in line for those brands, then starting my own brand and them not responding the same way I was used to them responding on the other side, has been one of the biggest challenges and humbling experiences,” says Burston.

Burston’s story is not new. Many publications have stated that less than 1% of wineries and wine brands are owned by African-Americans. However, it is shocking that even someone who had spent years building a career and relationships prior to starting his brand, still suffered the same challenges.

But in many ways, that inspired Burston to start La Fête in the first place. As a Black person in America, he was able to quickly see the difference in how brands treated his community vs. others, especially when it came to marketing wines and spirits.

“Rather than catering solely to the ‘stereotypical’ wine drinker that the industry often targets, I aimed to create a brand that recognizes the culture as the primary consumer,” he said. “This perspective is not based on race, but on a shared interest in food, travel, experiences, and more. By approaching our work through this cultural lens, we are able to genuinely connect with our community.”

Shortly after his time with Champagne Armand de Brignac, for his 30th birthday, Burston took a trip to the south of France. He was able to feel the sunshine, taste the rosé, and see the grapes. Those experiences led him to found La Fête du rosé.

black wine culture donae burston
CEO Donae Burston. Credit: Nathan Lefebvre

Getting the Party Started

While on that fateful trip, Burston quickly realized no one in the rosé space was speaking to his demographic. And he knew it was time to change that. He set out to market to a new audience, targeting more men, younger drinkers, and people of color to the already-established community of rosé drinkers. 

Black wine culture would become the reason Burston would develop one of the most successful rosé brands in the country. His company started out with equity investments from NBA great Chris Paul. Paul then helped to put La Fête rosé in the NBA bubble during the 2021 NBA Finals. That same year, Constellation brands, the parent company of large alcohol brands like Corona, Svedka and Modelo, invested in La Fête, making them the first Black-owned business to get that kind of investment.

And if that wasn’t enough, Burston would eventually go viral because of an unplanned celeb mention. That turned out to be a boon to his brand, and really brought his wine to a new group of drinkers. 

“The turning point for Burston was the start of the pandemic when DJ D-Nice gave his brand a shoutout during his popular virtual dance party ‘Club Quarantine,’” recalled Burston in an interview with the Baltimore Sun. He continued, “I fell out of my seat. I took a screenshot and sent it to people.”

Support from his community has led to an impressive brand, but it’s also what sustains it.

“You have to go to those people who are supporting you, places like Happy Cork and Three Parks, they support you, they sell your brand, they get behind you,” said Burston at our 2021 event. He continued, “It reinvigorates you when you hear no so much, to hear those yeses, especially from our community”. 

What’s Next

Burston and La Fête are already on their way to disrupting the industry and changing how society thinks about rosé. His wines are now visible practically everywhere. 

This summer, La Fête announced a partnership with the Miami Grand Prix. La Fête is also on Delta Airlines flights as a premium wine selection. But, overall, La Fête continues to change how and when we drink rosé. And now, Burston is taking his brand global.

“We’re determined to become one of the top three leaders in the rosé category by
2025. And this year, we’re taking our brand to new heights by expanding in the EU,
UK, and West Africa,” he says. “At the same time, we’re thrilled by the incredible feedback
we’ve received about La Fête du Blanc. So, we’re working hard to make it even more
accessible to our customers.”

La Fête can be found all over the world. Find out where La Fête is closest to you using their locator. You can also follow them on Instagram @lafeterosé.

Post Tags

Subscribe to the Newsletter