The team behind the popular restaurant chain, Bar Douro, recently hosted a spectacular 2-day wine festival, celebrating the very best drops Portugal has to offer.
FESTA Wine Festival, which took place at Tobacco Dock in East London on June 24th and 25th, showcased 250 wines from around 50 Portuguese producers. It coincided with Festa de São João do Porto, a traditional midsummer festival in Portugal, bringing some of the party to the capital.
“This festival is a pure celebration of Portugal. Coming out of Covid, we felt that it was really needed for producers, brands, chefs, and restaurants to come together and celebrate the things we are passionate about,” says Max Graham, founder of Bar Douro.
With wine by the drop, you could move around the 19th-century warehouse and sample traditional wines that would otherwise be hard to come by in the UK.
Every corner of Portugal was represented, with the event space divided into Northern and Southern regions, as producers showcased their wines atop barrel caskets as you mingled, sipped and soaked in the vibrant atmosphere.
Graham, who was joined by Sarah Ahmed, the restaurant’s wine expert and journalist, hand-picked the producers with the aim of showcasing the region’s most pioneering and cutting-edge.
“The most important thing was to choose the people that we felt were really leading the charge in Portuguese wine.
The pioneers and not just the young pioneers but also the older pioneers who’ve done things throughout their career to really lead the way,” Graham says.
One such producer is celebrated chef Vitor Claro of Dominó, who is very upfront about not being a ‘classically trained’ winemaker. But, he has a clear vision to create artisanal, gastronomic wine with authenticity and freshness.
In 2010, his vision took him to Portalegre – the Alentjo’s highest, northern-most, coolest outpost which has a rich heritage of old field blend varieties.
“Where we are based, inland, towards the border of Spain, we use mainly a blend in the vineyards with 20-to-30 different varieties. The richness from the old vineyards is what we sought to keep,” Claro explains.
The same expanse and variety was mirrored in the food offering, with traditional Portuguese dishes such as Bifana, a sandwich made with thin slices of pork poached in white wine and Pastel de Nata, for those who prefer something sweet, also available.
One of the food pop-ups, Roulote, returned for the festival after operating as an extension of Bar Douro during the pandemic, serving traditional Portuguese street food. Not to mention, celebrated chef and author, Leandro Carreira, who was serving dishes from his new cookbook, Portugal The Cookbook.
“I’m so grateful that he [Leandro] said yes because his food is insane. We’ve also got Volta Do Mar, a great restaurant showing different sides to Portuguese food, the experience, influences from around the world and Portugal’s history,” Graham says.
Beyond the food and drink, there was live music and a Mercado where you could sample and stock up on locals good to keep the celebration alive long after the festival had ended. This included crafts, cured meats, cheese, gin and of course, wine.
The lively event brought people from all walks of life together to celebrate a rich and diverse culture with Graham saying it will “definitely” return in 2023.
“This whole project is a community of people in London that are so passionate about Portugal and I hope it comes through in the festival in the food, the wine, the music – really all the dimensions of the culture,” he says.
If you missed out this year, don’t worry as many of the wines available during the festival are also available to purchase online through the FESTA wine shop.