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 Fete du Rose, or La Fete. Literally translated as “The Party,” this is a wine meant for any occasion where people are together. The leader of this organization is Donae Burston. A Baltimore native, he brought his culture all the way to the south of France. Now he wants to bring everybody with him.
Rooted in Culture
Donae’s journey starts in Baltimore, Maryland, specifically Randallstown. He spent most of his life there until leaving Maryland for Atlanta, where he attended Clark Atlanta University. Donae later left CAU for Georgia Tech, where he got a degree 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.”
After starting a career in IT consulting, Burston started helping a friend in clubs, 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 was how Burston landed a role as a promotions manager at Heineken. He then went on to spend eight years at Moet Hennessy, and three more with Jay-Z’s champagne brand, Champagne Armand de Brignac.
While at Moet Hennesy, which later became LVMH, Burston launched the first and only champagne bar in the Miami Heat’s American Airlines arena. Donae ended up with a 15-year career in wine and spirits, until it was time to start his own venture.
Unfortunately, going from a leader in the space, to a business owner was not all rosé and sunshine. We had Burston on our 2021 State of Black Wine Business Forum. There, he shared how he struggled interacting with some of his old contemporaries once he no longer had a big name on his 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 that less than 1% of wineries and wine brands are owned by African-Americans. However, it is striking to hear that even someone who had built a career and relationships prior to starting their own wine brand, still suffered the same challenges.
However, in many ways, that inspired Burston to start La Fete in the first place. Growing up within the culture and understanding his community, he was able to quickly see the difference between how brands treat this community vs. others. Especially, when it comes to marketing wine 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 at trip to the south of France. He was able to feel the sunshine, taste the rosé, and see the grapes. And with all of these experiences, Burston founded La Fete du Rose.
Getting the Party Started
While on that trip and others, 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, bringing in men, younger drinkers, and people of color to the 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 put La Fete 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 Fete, making them the first black-owned business to get that investment.
And if that wasn’t enough, Burston would get an unlikely viral sensation to really launch his brand within the community.
“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 also it’s what sustains Burston in his efforts to disrupt the industry.
“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,” says Burston in our 2021 event. He continued, “It reinvigorates you when you hear no so much, to hear those yeses, especially from our community”.
Burston and La Fete are already on their way to disrupting the industry and changing how society thinks about rosé. This summer La Fete announced a partnership with the Miami Grand Prix. The brand is on Delta Airlines flights as a premium wine selection. But, overall, La Fete 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 said. “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.”