Do We Need Celebrity Wines?

Private Property South Africa
Shaun Wewege

We live in an age where the lines between advertising and genuine information is a bit blurred. In the past week, can you recall how many adverts you have read, seen or heard where a celebrity claims to use a certain product? Or how often a well known figure is used as the face of a brand (Nike seem to have made some poor choices in this area). I would guess (and I call it a guess because I’m too lazy to research statistics but the five people I’ve quizzed agreed with me) that you witness such testimonials on a daily basis. It would seem that there is now a growing trend towards celebrities producing their own wines. Or are they?

Let me start by saying that I am no wine aficionado. At wine tasting events I try not to look too uneducated and do my best not to slurp or gulp wines. I also know enough to avoid making a faux paus by suggesting that event attendees trying pairing a delightful Tassies with spare-ribs, or mix a vintage wine with Coca-Cola to enhance the taste.

But I am beginning to wonder whether the wine market needs more celebrities introducing their own labels. You see, I am a cynic. I won’t buy something just because a famous person has put his or her face/name/derrière on the label. In fact, I usually deliberately avoid such products because I feel that they are more about marketing than scientifically proven to work.

And with wine, is it a case of producers finding a celebrity who is willing to have their face plastered on a wine label; or are these famous folks able to discern more than just red from white wine? Are these stars of the stage and sports arenas knowledgeable about their wines or will they gladly let their name endorse everything from wine and chicken to fly-swats and laxatives if the price is right?

A sommelier may be able to identify a good wine and provide a host of reasons, with scientific basis, as to why that wine has the bouquet and taste that it does. But the average dipsomaniac will more likely be swayed by marketing and buy wine with an androgynous band on the label than base a purchasing decision on a favourable review by a wine industry expert.

The other side of this is that some of these wines may be really worth adding to your collection. This is the conundrum for a cynic like me. I think Ernie Else, The Parlotones and Jacques Kallis should stick to their day-jobs. But perhaps these celebrities imbibe professionally on the side? With his run of form on the field Jacques Kallis has certainly had plenty of reason to celebrate with a few wines. No band wears dodgy make up unless they have been drinking. And Ernie Else’s red complexion can’t all be from sunburn.

Each time I visit the liquor merchant I am faced with a decision – do I give in to the marketers and try a celebrity label wine, perhaps finding a new brand that appeals to my personal taste? Or do I scoff at these sell-outs and skip their products in favour of estates I feel produce decent wine?

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