Celebrity wines: Obsessions in a bottle
We really need to have a talk, don’t we?
Wednesday 30 March 2022
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How would you spend your money if you were a celebrity?
Personally I’d commission the world’s leading expert in artificial intelligence to make an exact working replica of Cher Horowitz’s virtual wardrobe in Clueless. I would have Champagne on tap in every room and whilst I wouldn’t want a pool in the house per se, I would buy the nearest leisure centre and have a contractual agreement where I would have the swimming facilities to myself whenever I desired.
It’s a fun game to play, safe in the knowledge that I will never be in the position of having so much money and power my spending veers towards the definition of unnecessary.
You may have noticed—entirely forgivable if not—the steady rise of celebrity branded wine cropping up on the supermarket shelves. From Gordon Ramsay to Gary Barlow, Drew Barrymore to Idris Elba, it’s hard to keep count of the constellations of stars turning their heads to viticulture. A rise so steady I am beginning to wonder if the pinnacle of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is not “self-actualisation” but in fact “owns a wine brand named after themselves”.
I am beginning to wonder if the pinnacle of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is in fact “owns a wine brand named after themselves”
Reviews and reception of these wines oscillate between “this is bad, how dare they” to “11 celebrities with a wine side hustle you simply have to know about!” The former is a snobbish refusal to analyse consumer trends and the latter a clickbait listicle with a girlboss glossary that rings hollow. Neither are constructive to the conversation of why these wines exist with such ferocity in the first place.
The whole point of a celebrity, to me, is that they live a life so deliciously unattainable that I have no choice but to vicariously live through them. I revel in the ridiculous nature of it all. There’s nothing like the existence of a human being so far removed from reality to make you feel comparatively grounded. And here’s the thing: if I had more money than sense, I, too, would turn my hands to token gesture winemaking.
The origin of each celebrity label has the following formula: delicious fine wine, plus a stunning location equates to a passionate palate that now wants to replicate the experience for the masses.
“Gary [Barlow] confessed his passion for fine wine was late to develop” reads an exclusive with Drinks Business, “it was not until he was introduced to the delights of Bordeaux in his mid-twenties that his palate was ignited.”
“I was working in Nashville for two weeks,” Kylie reveals in an interview with Decanter’s Andrew Jefford. “There was lots of alfresco dining, lots of Whispering Angel on the table…Then I just said ‘What if I have a rosé one day?’”
“Running a 3 Michelin star restaurant for over 20 years means I have had the joy of tasting some of the finest wines in the world,” starts the introduction to Gordon Ramsay’s new wine range: The Gordon Ramsay Italian Collection.
So what should you do when, after a lifetime of access to the finest wines from the choicest of locations, you simply must have one of your own?
Enter Benchmark Drinks, a distributor and brand manager who are the company behind a whole line up of winemaking careers, from Graham Norton and Sarah Jessica Parker to Sir Ian Botham and Philip Schofield.
Curious to know exactly how much involvement these names had in their wine I got in contact with Benchmark Drinks—as well as wealth management advisors who may be able to shed some light on the financial benefits of having a wine label—but despite numerous attempts I couldn’t find anyone who would give me the time of day. Perhaps it was as simple as everyone I contacted was extremely busy. Or perhaps, as I suspect, my name did not carry the fame, status or bank balance required to warrant a response.
And it’s this exact reason why celebrity wines work so well. Whilst I too have drunk wine on holiday and thought “gee, this is the life, isn’t it”, the market for a Cremant d’Rachel Hendry—coming to a supermarket near you—remains disappointingly low.
For I cannot tell you how many times I have stood, paralysed, in the wine aisle unable to make a decision because every single label means nothing to me and I am terrified of making a “bad” choice. I don’t want a wine that makes me feel inferior or lacking, I have a constant awareness of my stomach and a job in hospitality that takes care of that just fine. What I want from my wine is easy escapism and whilst I may not always know whether that label is referring to a grape or a region, I sure as hell know what a Gary Barlow is. Wine sellers across the globe would be smart to take note.
I want to absentmindedly run my fingers over the embellished hearts that form a bottle of Kylie Minogue Pink Prosecco. I want to pop the cork with a flourish and watch a wine the colour of a blushing sunset fizz and froth into my glass. I want my taste buds to be greeted by a children’s birthday party—sugared clouds of candyfloss, electric raspberry sherbet and bowlfuls of quivering strawberry jelly and ice cream. And, with over one million bottles of Kylie Prosecco now sold, it seems I am far from alone in this.
Kylie herself knows this; “Where I sit in people’s minds, there also has to be an element of glamour, of magic, of creating a show” she says of her collection, a brief that she has nailed. As far as I am concerned, she and her wines can do no wrong.
But it’s when celebrities take their responsibility to their fans a step too far that my issues with this trend begin.
Sustainability is important to Gary Barlow; his wines are organic and sold in supermarkets where taxes and takings mean a winemaker often receives very little of the price paid for their bottles. Health is paramount to Cameron Diaz; her wine brand Avaline profits via “pure”, “clean” wines, where “unwanted extras” are taken away and replaced with a wellness language harmful in its ignorance. Care for the environment is at the forefront of Philip Schofield’s recycled PET wine bottles, readily available from Amazon, a company renowned for its care for both its people and their planet.
There is a difference between being persuaded to drink like someone removed from reality and being told how to drink by someone removed from reality.
I’m going to level with you here, outside of various marketing stunts, none of these celebrities are drinking their own wines
Whilst I am happy to fool myself that I am drinking like Kylie—I’m going to level with you here, outside of various marketing stunts, none of these celebrities are drinking their own wines—it would be a different thing entirely if Ms Minogue were to tell me, a person with a fraction of her resources, that I’ve been drinking all wrong and it is her new found vocation in life to change that.
I cannot say that I could do better were I in their shoes as, despite countless hours daydreaming, I know not of how status, and the choices made to gain it, forms a person’s perception of the world. All I can do is engage with these wines with a critical thought, a comparative eye and a healthy dose of suspicion, safe in the knowledge that the world will not fall apart if all my brain can pick out in the aisle is a bottle of pink prosecco. For whilst I will never know what it is to be cursed by fame and blessed by fortune I will no doubt stay steadfast in my obsession with those that have.
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