Opinion: The endless procession of celebrity drinks

Chris Losh

Chris Losh

23 October 2015

What is it with celebrities making their own booze?

This week, I’ve been sent press releases about Majestic stocking wine by the Irish chat show hobbit Graham Norton and a new range from retired golfer Nick Faldo.

But don’t worry. This is no mere celebrity dallying. They’re perfectly qualified to make wine. Of course they are.

Mr Norton, I’m assured by the press release from Majestic (who will be ‘exclusive’ stockists no less) ‘is a well-known Sauvignon Blanc lover’ who has ‘tasted his way through samples with the Invivo team and blended his ultimate Sauvignon Blanc’ – and there's even the above picture, in case you didn't believe it.

So that’s all right then.

Makes you wonder why all these poor saps spend all that time and money studying winemaking then years hosing out tanks, when apparently all that’s needed to pop out a wine with your name on it is a bit of enthusiasm for the product.

It helps, of course, that his mates in the media can give it plenty of oxygen, and that his initials appear in the name of the wine. So it’s SauviGNon Blanc. Geddit? What next, a YellOW Muscat made by Oprah Winfrey?

Sir Nick’s project is perhaps more ambitious, featuring as it does not just one wine, but a range of six classic European wines (Rioja, Chablis, Châteauneuf et al) to ‘commemorate his six major victories’.

Unsurprisingly, he’s aiming the range at golf clubs, though with no stake in the vineyards and little input in the winemaking process I’m not sure what the rationale would be for buying them. The ability to grind out 18 straight pars to win the British Open doesn’t, after all, guarantee you’ve got a good palate any more than being a winemaker means you could design a top-class golf course.

Still, he’s to be congratulated on his persistence. I went to a similar project that he launched over 10 years ago, and was lucky enough to interview him. In that time it became obvious that he cared deeply about golf, meant well… And that his wine knowledge could be summed up to: ‘I know what I like and that’s lots of fruit’.

I can see wine buyers across the on-trade rushing to order his Chablis right now.

I’m bored to death of celebrities dipping their toes into the world of booze and claiming that the fact that they like it somehow gives them a fast-track insight into making a version that’s worth buying.

No. It doesn’t. What gives you the chance to make your own label is vast amounts of wealth and ego. So spare us the ‘Johnny Actor has loved tequila since the age of six and has an unparalleled collection of añejos’ shtick.

Actors and musicians, perhaps unsurprisingly, are the worst. Sam Neill, down in Otago, is I would say, an exception. He gets his hands dirty, and I very much get the impression that he would much rather be in amongst his vines than on a Hollywood set. Gérard Depardieu is another.

But for too many, creating their own booze brand seems to be a chance to show off a bit and revel in the fact that they’re producing a physical object that can be picked up and paraded around without needing to be downloaded onto a TV/phone/iPad.

This is fine. A bit of harmless fun. Some of the products are good. And Graham Norton, to his credit, is donating his share of any profits to charity.

But given the number of genuinely talented winemakers, craft brewers and artisanal distillers out there who are sweating blood to produce something with real heart and who are struggling like hell to bring it to market, please, celebrities, don’t expect me to get excited by what you’re doing.

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