A Star is Born

There is increasing evidence of celebrities being associated with wine brands.  However, it is not a recent phenomenon, though it has certainly garnered more attention in today’s Information Age. Usually celebrities have a large amount of wealth accumulated, which makes the significant investment in opening a winery or vineyard negligible.

There are many reasons that celebrities gravitate to the world of wine. Starting a winery or vineyard can offer some tax benefits. Some celebrities, such as the Italian-American director Francis Ford Coppola, come from a family with a long history of winemaking. Others such as the British singer Cliff Richard, have been lifelong wine enthusiasts and enter the wine industry in order to do something that they enjoy. Still others like the challenge of a new enterprise. Some celebrities enter the wine industry simply because they can.

Celebrities, such as the American actors Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, and British football star David Beckham and his wife Victoria, own vineyards and wine estates solely for personal use. Some other celebrities leverage their name recognition as a selling tool in the wine industry.

Celebrities have different degrees of involvement in their wineries and vineyards. Nearly all of them partner, in some form of collaboration, with a winery or winemaker who is already established in the industry.

Sarah Jessica Parker, the former Sex and the City star, has debuted her Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé collection. She has a partnership with New Zealand-based winery Invivo.  The self-proclaimed wine lover is said to have her hand in every step of the winemaking process, including naming and design of the bottles.

The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, owns two vineyards that sell grapes to California wine producers.

Sometimes the celebrity may own their own “wine brand” which is produced with the collaborating winery instead of owning a physical winery or wine estate itself. An example of this is Wayne Gretzky Estates, which is one of the brands owned by Andrew Peller Limited, who also owns Peller Estates Winery, Sandhill, Trius Winery, Red Rooster, Calona Vineyards and Thirty Bench Wine Makers.  Each is a unique winery operating with its own vintner, wines and labels.  I am sure that Mr. Gretzky is involved to at least some degree in the winery’s operation.

Some celebrities lend their names to a winery for a special wine production.  Examples of this include Niagara’s Stoney Ridge, who produces The Tragically Hip Fully Completely Reserve Red and The Tragically Hip Ahead by a Century Chardonnay.

Tawse winery has created Cuddy, a sparkling wine that has been developed in partnership with Blue Rodeo lead singer, Jim Cuddy.

For the art lovers out there, Niagara’s Diamond Estates winery produces McMichael Collection Tom Thomson Cabernet Franc and McMichael Collection Tom Thomson Barrel-Aged Chardonnay, paying for the rights to have Thompson’s paintings displayed on the bottle.

Does celebrity ownership impact the price of the wine? If the celebrity is involved in the ownership or operation of the winery, I would say no. However, where endorsements or royalties are being paid by the winery to the celebrity, I would speculate that such costs do impact the price.  As a result, in this situation the consumer pays marginally more for a wine bearing the name of a celebrity than another wine of a similar quality. 

However, if you are a fan of a particular celebrity or a particular label design, then the novelty may be worth the slight increase in cost.  After all, the beauty (and taste) lies with the consumer.

Sláinte mhaith

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