Famous names are making their own wines and spirits, should we buy in and enjoy a celebrity sip?
So, you’re a famous rock, movie or sports star. You have all the usual trappings of fame: the country estate, Ferraris in the garage, yachts in the harbour, fine wines in the cellar, kids at a posh school and a succession of pulchritudinous WAGs in the boudoir. You want for nothing.
Except, hang on, what’s that nagging at the back of your mind? What little something do you, in fact, lack, that current celebrity “must have”?
What was it that Raymond “Perry Mason” Burr and Fess “Daniel Boone” Parker had but Oliver Reed and Keith Moon, mercifully, did not?
Brad and Ange have just got one. Francis Ford Coppola has a really big one, while those of Gérard Depardieu and Christophe Lambert, the hunky star of Greystoke and Highlander, are more modestly sized. Golfing stars Ernie Els, Greg Norman and Luke Donald have one each, while American comedians the Smothers Brothers share one.
Madonna has one with her father, racing drivers Mario Andretti and Jarno Trulli each have one and our own Ian Botham and Bob Willis are jointly involved in one with Aussie Geoff Merrill.
Sir Cliff Richard, Sting and Mick Hucknall boast Mediterranean ones while fellow rockers Olivia Newton-John, Mick Fleetwood and Bob Dylan have lent their names and endorsements to those of others. Even Vince Neil, lead singer of sotto voce tunesmiths Mötley Crüe, has one, for heaven’s sake.
Oh yes, of course, that’s it: a vineyard. If you’re determined to keep up with the top-level, A-list Joneses what you really need these days is that most classy of status symbols: your own fully functioning, beautifully sited, state-of-the-art vineyard.
Producing your own wine adds style and legitimacy to your name/brand; the potential rewards are great and what better way to keep your chums and hangers-on in drink than to make it for them?
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are just the latest in a long line of “slebs” to try their hand at winemaking, in their case at Château Miraval in the heart of Provence. A joint project with the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel fame, their 2012 Miraval rosé was released earlier this year to excellent reviews.
I’m told that the Hollywood couple were heavily involved in the blending sessions and that they also helped with the classy design of the label and bottle. The wine was priced at £19 a bottle, pretty punchy for a Côtes de Provence rosé, however the first 6,000 bottles sold out five hours after being offered online in France; UK stockist Berry Bros & Rudd also sold out of its allocation in no time. A companion Provencal white is scheduled for release shortly.
Unlike Brangelina, a fair number of celebrity vineyard-owners don’t go near their wine-making estates and probably don’t even know where they are, having little involvement save to fund them/pick up the proceeds or show off about them.
What’s surprising, though, is how good many of the celebrity wines are, especially where the stars have plenty of input and a firm idea of what they’re after. When the sainted Sir Cliff first released his Algarve red, Vida Nova, 10 years ago there was much sniggering in the back row and muttering about vanity projects. But the wine was pretty good and the subsequent releases have just got better and better. Although Vida Nova is not exactly top-end, the wines are extremely well made and Waitrose wouldn’t have continued stocking them for all these years if they weren’t. The latest rosé is an absolute peach, in fact, and great value at £9.
Further up the scale, the wines of Ernie Els in South Africa, Francis Ford Coppola in California (he’s more winemaker than film director these days) and cinematographer Michael Seresin and actor Sam Neill in New Zealand are all exceptional. Indeed, having been a fan of Seresin Estate for many years, I’d argue that his are among the finest Kiwi wines of all.
Of course, there’s always one for whom simple wine is not enough. Dan Aykroyd, the great Ghostbuster and Blues Brother himself, not only produces his own wines in Canada’s Niagara Peninsula – most notably a lip-smackingly tasty icewine – but he also has his own spirit, having recently launched Crystal Head Vodka to huge acclaim.
And while the vodka’s not half bad, it’s the striking packaging that has folk talking. Indeed, if sales figures are to be believed, Aykroyd might never need to act again. But would anyone have bought it if he hadn’t been a famous actor in the first place?
SIX OF THE BEST CELEBRITY BOTTLES:
2012 VIDA NOVA ROSE (£9, Waitrose)
In the pink with Sir Cliff.
2012 SERESIN SAUVIGNON BLANC (£12.50. Wine Society)
An exceptional estate’s entry-level white.
2008 BOTHAM MERRILL WILLIS CHARDONNAY (£16.50, Christopher Piper)
The Cricket legends’ take on Aussie chard.
2010 ERNIE ELS PROPRIETOR’S BLEND (£25, Lea & Sandeman)
Classy, golfer-friendly South African red.
2010 TWO PADDOCKS LAST CHANCE PINOT NOIR 2013 (£46.60, Haynes Hanson & Clark)
Superlative pinot from actor Sam Neill.
CRYSTAL HEAD VODKA (£42, Master of Malt)
A striking conversation piece from the great Dan Aykroyd.