27 Feb Celebrity branded wines: hip, or hype?
When Drake came out with his own brand of whiskey, were you lining up to get a smooth-drinking taste of the new bourbon…or rolling your eyes at the shameless celebrity endorsement? Of course, celebrity branding is certainly nothing new; whether it’s a sports drink, a sandwich or a perfume, celebrities seem to love putting their name on consumer products. When it comes to wine, however, is it really a good idea for the serious collector to sip based on the famous person behind the bottle?
Celebrity and wine: Nothing new
Once upon a time, virtually the only people who could consider owning vineyards were the rich and famous of their day. When man first crushed grapes, the only people getting them crushed were leading philosophers, politicians and military men who could afford their own personal wineries. Today, of course, celebrities are paid to endorse just about anything and, in turn, generally have the wealth and connections to partner with existing wine moguls to start their own brands. It could be strictly business, it could be passion, or it could be to start a meme, but celebrity wines are here to stay. Everyone from Antonio Banderas to Drew Barrymore, Brad Pitt to Lil Jon, has their own wine. So, what’s the verdict?
Celebrity wines: collaboration is key
It’s one thing if a celebrity has their own private ‘vanity vineyard’, but when selling wines to the public, name recognition isn’t everything. The key is for the celebrity in question to recognize the truth: while they may be great at acting/sports/politicking or what have you, they probably don’t know very much about wine production. Here it becomes essential to partner with an established winery that can maintain control of the vines and the actual winemaking, while the celebrity helps choose such things as the percentage blend of different grape varieties to ensure that the bouquet is really their own. That means the celebrity doesn’t need to own a winery any more than they need to own the perfume factory that produces their brand of scent.
While this low level of involvement on the part of the celebrity may seem to make the wine inauthentic, in truth, it is likely to produce a finer wine. Notable exceptions would be such celebrities as Francis Ford Coppola, who essentially has winemaking in his blood, and French actor Gerard Depardieu, who owns his own wineries and is very active in their production.
Celebrity wines: What to try
There are many reasons for purchasing a bottle, and if whimsy or sentiment figure highly on your list, then you will want to try celebrity vintages just for the cachet of the label. For example, what Stones fanatic wouldn’t love to be gifted a bottle of 2014 Rolling Stones Forty Licks Merlot, with that iconic logo on the front? That’s one that, whether it’s consumed immediately or sits in the wine cellar for a decade, is always going to be a conversation piece. And it’s not plonk, either; celebrity wines like those sold by Wines That Rock, designed to bring legendary music and wine together, are often the product of award-winning vineyards that can stand on their own even without the endorsement of famous bands. But if you prefer a good wine to an ironic one, try one of Sting’s Sister Moon reds from Tenuta il Palagio in Florence. It’s the ultimate message in a bottle.