Marthélize Tredoux: Celebrity wine – yay or nay?
By Marthelize Tredoux, 8 February 2017
This week, I was gifted a bottle of something exciting: a celebrity wine! No, not a bottle of Château Miraval (from Brangelina’s winery – now probably either Brad OR Angelina’s, depending on who had the best lawyer).
A bottle of Caduceus Anubis 2013 made its way to me, all the way from the US of A. For the unenlightened (which, considering the rather niche nature of this wine is probably everyone), it is a blend of Cabernet Franc (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%), Petite Sirah (20%). The celebrity appeal of this rather striking-looking bottle comes from owner and winemaker, Maynard James Keenan – the vocalist for US rock band Tool.
Caduceus Cellars are based in Arizona and Keenan himself is the winemaker. Keenan’s rock-star status alone conveys a certain amount of celebrity to the winery already, but this was bolstered in 2010 by the documentary Blood Into Wine, showcasing the Arizona wine industry and focusing on Caduceus Cellars. 10/10 would recommend watching.
Taking possession of the Caduceus gave me a rather odd feeling – a tingle of excitement that was quite unlike the usual buzz I get from getting an interesting, rare or simply fantastic bottle of wine. This wine, rather, has a cult status, but for different reasons than your average wine geek would be faffing over. It’s a relatively small production winery and by most accounts (4.4/5 on Vivino after 29 reviews) this seems to be a solid, if not outstanding, wine. Not plonk, at the very least.
I get a kick from this the wine simply because of where it comes from, and the associated cool factor (the bottle itself is shiny, black, and with front and back labels etched on – no stickers – so it also looks pretty bad ass). And I’m not sure how I feel about being impressed almost solely by the extrinsics.
Celebrity wines… What should we make of them? It’s not really a phenomenon that’s taken off hugely in South Africa, though there are a few mentions: Ernie Els Wines (of course), The Goose wines (Retief Goosen) and the Val de Vie Ryk Neethling. Oh and Gary Player had The Black Knight. And Rietvallei made The Innings with Mark Boucher and Jacques Kallis. And then, of course, the many ties between rugby and winemaking.
Ok, it seems safe to conclude that in South Africa, our sports celebs do like themselves a spot of wine making/endorsing. It hasn’t really caught on that much on our entertainment celebrity side though. Perhaps a blessing in disguise there…
Are we missing a trick here, however? Roll your eyes if you must, but the nutty number-crunching, research-churning people who study things like wine sales and trends are still telling us that millennials are drinking wine (a whole whack to be exact – 159.6 million cases in 2015 in the USA – that’s an average of two cases per person). Another thing the millennials are great lovers of is the celebrity endorsement. Well, the celebrity in general, really. How else do you explain Kimye or the Kar-can-we-please-not-with-them-anymore-dashians?
Put the two together, and you have a formidable wine-selling formula. In 2013, Brangelina’s Miraval 2012 rosé sold out in five hours flat. Sting, Francis Ford Coppola, Antonio Banderas, Madonna, Sam Neill – all have their own wines and/or wineries. Are they any good? Who knows. Does it matter? Probably not.
To answer my own question, I doubt that our local “celebrity” following is strong enough to really see that type of endorsement make a noticeable impact on our wine market. Perhaps the actual impact celebrity wines have on the US market seems much more significant than it is (all the celebrity wines put together probably don’t make up a lot of volume, so how impactful can they really be?). As a marketing tool, it’s probably worth exploring at least. As long as we idolize our rock gods, screen stars and adore famous people simply because they’re famous, there will be a gap for them to bless a product with their fame dust and a horde of fans who will fall all over themselves to go buy it.
I’ll just be in the corner, adoring my shiny bottle of rock ‘n roll.
- Marthélize Tredoux is the co-owner and editor at Incogvino. By day, she helps SA wineries sell their wine in the USA. She won the Veritas Young Wine Writers Competition in 2013.