Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Festa reaffirms ‘home of Portugal’ status

Published:  12 March, 2024

Festa, the online retailer and supplier of Portuguese wines, showcased its spring portfolio at Bar Douro yesterday, the bar/restaurant owned by Festa founder Max Graham.

His partner in crime is the wine detective herself Sarah Ahmed. Together, Graham and Ahmed have curated an exciting range of Portuguese wines, unmatched in the UK in terms of quality and value.

Among the many standouts of the tasting was Vitor Claro’s range of minimal intervention wines from Portalegre and Lisbon's coastal regions of Colares and Carcavelos.

Claro, a chef by trade, represents a new generation of winemakers doing things differently in Portugal. His wines under the Dominó label are fresh and gastronomic made from old field blend grapes. 

“I think Portugal built up a reputation in 80/90/the 00s, of being very low price point driven, but since then a lot of producers have realised they can make a living salvaging their grandparents' vineyards, vineyards that were neglected,” Festa founder Max Graham told Harpers.

“This new generation of winemakers, in their 30s and 40s, have travelled a lot, and they’ve learnt new tricks along the way whilst appreciating what’s unique and special about what they have in Portugal,” added Sarah Ahmed, Festa’s wine consultant.

Graham and Ahmed began working together in 2018 on a series of winemaker dinners at Bar Douro. Two years later they set up an online shop and formed a wine club, with Ahmed choosing wines for a quarterly box. In 2022, this culminated in the launch of Festa, a ground-breaking celebration of Portuguese wine, gastronomy and culture, held at Tobacco Dock, in Wapping.

Since then, Festa has established itself as the UK destination for Portuguese wines.

“The whole idea was to show people in the UK what’s happening in Portugal on the ground. The wine scene has just exploded in Portugal in the last decade – the bottom of the pyramid is really wide in terms of quality and there’s just so many new producers all the time, it’s really hard to keep your finger on the pulse,” said Ahmed.

“The challenge was to challenge some of the preconceptions of Portugal as a wine region at Festa 22, trying to get people to focus on the quality and build on a consumer base that is already travelling to Portugal,” added Graham.

Approximately 20 years ago, Portugal experienced something of a tourism boom. More recently, there has been a surge in the number of expats in Portugal, especially Lisbon, courtesy of digital nomad visas. As a result, Portugal and its wines are finding new audiences and sales are booming.

According to Wines of Portugal, the country’s wine exports saw a significant upswing in UK exports in the first half of 2023, growing 18.15% in volume and 43.85% in value, worth €43.5 million.

“The big difference I see now compared with 10-15 years ago, is that Portugal has a lot more confidence in its own grape varieties,” said Ahmed.

With an emphasis on native grapes and blends, a new generation of dynamic producers is bringing a deeper undertaking on their country’s wine traditions and terroir to the fore. During an export boom, Festa is positioned to take full advantage in a competitive market.