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Festa and the future of wine tastings

Published:  27 June, 2022

Last weekend a landmark wine festival, Festa, opened its doors for a celebration of Portuguese wine in London’s Tabacco Dock.

The unique event space in East London, built in 1812 as a bustling hub for luxury commodities from the New World, was the perfect backdrop for a progressive wine tasting format.

The two-day festival brought together more than 50 Portuguese wine producers, focusing predominantly on wine growers and artisanal makers.

Every corner of Portugal was represented, and the event space itself was divided into Northern and Southern regions, as producers showcased their wines atop barrel caskets, a welcome substitute from the traditional tabletop format, which can make the tastings feel transactional. 

In addition, live music was performed, adding to the event’s loose, vibrant and relaxed nature. A dedicated food court also helped attendees to immerse themselves in Portuguese culture.

They say the best place to enjoy wine is in its production area. But, unfortunately, when assembling members of the trade on mass, that isn’t always possible. Still, a festival celebrating a particular wine region is a good alternative and a welcome deviation from the traditional wine tasting format.

Festa was spearheaded by Max Graham, owner of the acclaimed Portuguese wine bar and restaurant Bar Douro. Graham was raised in Portugal, where his family, who founded Graham’s and then Churchill’s Port houses, have produced Port and wine in the Douro Valley for two centuries.

Having opened two Bar Douro sites, and launched an online Portuguese wine shop and the Bar Douro Wine Club, Graham believes that 2022 is “the year to expand our community and introduce wine, food and travel lovers to the Portuguese producers and products that most excite me. I’m thrilled to be able to do this through a unique cultural event, with art and live music.”

Bar Douro’s wine guru Sarah Ahmed, a leading commentator on Portugal’s wine scene, coordinated a series of tastings and panel discussions for the trade/press and consumer open sessions. “Since my first visit in 2004, Portugal’s unique wine culture had me hooked,” said Ahmed.

“The wines have gone from strength to strength as Portugal’s dynamic producers have developed an ever deeper understanding and respect for their country’s distinctive grape varieties, wine traditions and terroir.”

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A fuller report on Festa will appear in the July issue of Harpers