Fashion, Films, Sport stars…..and Wines!

Sumedh Singh Mandla

Estimated read time: < 12 minutes

What’s in a name? A lot! Especially when it’s that of a Celebrity – adding glamour to the ‘World of Wines’.

Wine has slowly and steadily become one of the most important social beverages in the world with a bottle of Champagne or a bubbly preceding the opening of majority of big events and celebrations. This clearly signifies the special place wines enjoy amongst all other beverages during big and small life events.

Marketing has always played a key role in the success of any wine region, vineyard or a wine. The most successful story of great wine marketing is the creation and promotion of the wine region of Bordeaux. Back in the 17th century, Dutch traders drained the marshland around the Medoc and started the plantation of vineyards. They also opened new distribution channels to the Bourgeosis, which helped usher in a second era of prosperity. At the turn of the 18th century, the War of the Spanish Succession broke out which made navigation along the French coastline and the English Channel very risky. Additionally, the tensions between English and French governments halted all official trade between Bordeaux and the London market. Despite the government sanction, bottles of prized Bordeaux wines began showing up in large quantities at auction houses in London, Bristol, and Plymouth as the captured bounty of privateers. Many believe that this was an arranged affair between the Bordeaux chateaux, the privateers, and the London auction houses to get around the wartime politics of the period. Even after decades, Bordeaux wines still command much higher repute and prices compared to any great wines from other comparable wine regions of France, Italy or other parts of the world.

One of the biggest endorsement processes for Bordeaux came into existence with the rating system that was initiated by Robert Parker and by Wine Spectator. Eventually several new ratings systems have emerged and many new wine experts have taken the role of wine critics. These systems still play a major role in the success of any wine brand. Talking about Bordeaux, every year, the pricing of the Bordeaux’s Grand Cru and other top wines from Burgundy or Super Tuscan wines is decided based on the ratings of eminent wine critics like Parker or Wine Spectator.

“Several celebs have entered into the world of wines — some, with right vision and focus, have managed to make their mark.”

Owning and running of a successful vineyard and wine brand needs the right mix of manpower and resources. Hence, many celebrities from various industries have, over a period of time, started investing in vineyards. With their abundant pool of funds it can be easy to get the right piece of land, equipment, and also the right viticulturists and wine makers – thanks to the growing phenomena of Flying winemakers and viticulturists. Moreover, their stardom and expansive social network comes in handy when promoting these wines. Several celebs have entered into the world of wines – some, with right vision and focus, have managed to make their mark. Let’s look at some of these success stories:

Roberto Cavalli bought the estate of Tenuta Degli Dei, located in Panzano in Chianti, in the early 70s. Cavalli’s eldest son Tommaso was always attracted to the Chianti countryside and fascinated by its lifestyle over the glamour of his father’s fashion empire. In 2000, he started growing two fantastic vineyards with French varietals; Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Alicante Bouchet. He’s been fortunate to be assisted by Carlo Ferrini, one of the most experienced Italian winemakers. The limited quantity of the first vintage was released in 2004 — straightaway winning 90 points on Wine Spectator and 17/20 on the Guida Espresso.

Salvatore Ferragamo’s transition into Winemaking at Il Borro dates back to 1760 when the estate was under the rule of the noble Medici-Tornaquinci Family, since 1999. However, the Ferragamo Family in conjunction with enologist Niccolo’ D’Afflitto developed their winemaking process and in 2007 opened a state-of-the-art winery. The estate’s 40 hectare wine cover grows five varieties of vine: Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, and Petit Verdot. From the blend of the best grapes of these five varieties Il Borro produces three optimum IGT wines: “Il Borro”, “Pian di Nova,” and “Polissena”. For their 2004 vintage, these wines won 93, 89, and 83 points respectively on Wine Enthusiast.

“Owning and running of a successful vineyard and wine brand needs the right mix of manpower and resources”

Bacci wines: Bacci family is among the most famous and respected families in Florence, Italy. Marco Bacci, in the early 90s, sold his very successful jeans and fashion business to venture into the world of wine-making– initially as a hobby but later as a passion. He currently owns three premium estates in the Tuscany regions with Castello di Bossi located in Chianti (a historic winery with a heritage of 1099 years has been one of the most decorated wineries in Chianti Classico region), Renieri in Montalcino and Terre di Talamo in Maremma. All 3 estates produce some fantastic wines from Chianti classic to Brunello, lovely single vineyard Girolamo Merlot Regina di Renieri Syrah and some high end super Tuscan wines like Corbaia which have consistently received three glasses on Gambero rosso and always gets 90 plus points from Robert Parker, year after year. Marco Bacci works with the famous winemaker Alberto Antonini for his vineyards.

British music artist Sting is the latest celebrity to get into the wine business. The singer purchased a 16th-century villa, Il Palagio, in Figline Valdarno, Italy back in 1997. He has turned the 860 acres of land into an organic farm producing honey, olive oil and fruit and vegetables. His first wine, a 2007 vintage was mostly Sangiovese with Merlot and Cabernet added.

“Only a handful of business houses and cash rich politicians have invested into vineyards and wineries in India”

 In March this year, Antonio Banderas also joined the ranks, after taking a stake in a vineyard in his native country Spain. (I am still trying to fathom if this has any link to my wife wanting to visit the vineyards in Spain!)  The actor is the new co-owner of the renamed Anta Banderas winery at Duero River in northern Spain. The vineyard specialises in red and rose wines and excels in Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons. Earlier because of his passion for promoting Spanish wine, he was honoured with awards in his homeland for his hard work. Anta Banderas Bodegas was founded by Teodore Ortega in 1999, the firm produces around 1.5 million bottles of wine a year from 590 acres of vineyards. Family-run Anta Bodegas produces around 1.5 million bottles of wine a year. “Antonio Banderas is someone who is passionate about the world of wine and it makes us proud that he selected us as partners,” says Teodore’s son and co-manager Federico Ortega. Some of the Anta wines have already won several domestic and international awards, thanks to their quality and consistency.

There are many other stars who turned their love of wine into a  business. These include movie maker Francis Ford Coppola, Kyle MacLachlan, British singer Cliff Richard, and French actor Gerard Depardieuto name a few.

While some of the celebrity wine owners succeeded in creating their wine brands and generating a good ROI on their investments, many others fizzled out. Many wine experts and enthusiasts like myself will try to explain the same with the fact that, marketing aside, one of the key ingredients in the success of any wine brand is the understanding and the passion for wines. Like any other business venture — a clear vision is essential for the wine business but nothing can replace a wine grower’s passion for wines.

In the Indian peninsula, the Vijay Amritraj Reserve Collection is the first wine collection that was launched in collaboration with a legendary sports personality. Grover Zampa Vineyards and Mr. Amritaj worked together for over two years with an aim to create top quality wine that is reflective of the Indian terroir. The collection, since its launch, has received rave reviews across national and international markets winning 15 international awards since 2014 and is being distributed in many international markets.

We have not seen many celebs from Bollywood or the fashion industry endorsing wine brands or
investing into wine business. The main reason for this is the low wine awareness and volumes as the growth of wine industry is still at its nascent stages.  Or it could be that we as Indians put all our passion into Cricket! Thus, only a handful of business houses and cash rich politicians have invested into vineyards and wineries in India. I am quite certain that wine Industry will grow as one of the top industries in India in the future and our celebs too will not shy from endorsing a wine brand in public or owning one. Santé!

Image Credits: Pexels | Wikimedia Commons | Public Domain Pictures

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