Irish talk show host Graham Norton recently bagged a gold and a silver medal following a blind tasting competition at the prestigious Gin Master event in London. The comedian is carving out quite the reputation in the alcohol industry, having previously partnered with Kiwi winemaker Invivo & Co to produce some of the best-selling rosé and sauvignon blanc in the UK and Ireland. Of course, Norton’s not the only star to have invested in a New Zealand vineyard. Screen icon Sam Neill is the famous founder of Two Paddocks, who also grow the likes of saffron and lavender to complement their four organic vineyards.
And it’s not just in Aotearoa. Around the world a slew of superstars have caught the grape-growing bug. In fact, Sam Neill’s pinot noir came top of its class in a 2018 event comparing the wines produced by several Hollywood A-listers including Brad Pitt, Drew Barrymore and Jay-Z. So pour yourself a glass of New Zealand’s best grapes and pull up a pew to find out more….
Following the sale of his Parisian eatery, La Fontaine Gaillon, earlier this year, French actor Gérard Dépardieu announced the auctioning of its entire contents—including vintages from the cellar worth thousands of dollars each. The eccentric actor, now a Russian citizen, owns vineyards all over the world and has in recent years opened up about his struggles with alcoholism, admitting to having sometimes knocked back an astonishing 14 bottles of wine a day. Health issues aside (he’s had a quintuple heart bypass), such boozing has landed him in all manner of strife, including urinating in the aisle of an aeroplane, getting arrested after falling from his motorcycle, and shouting obscenities during a first world war commemoration ceremony.
Francis Ford Coppola
Francis Ford Coppola, legendary director of legendary flicks such as The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, owns an eponymous winery, also in Napa Valley, but this one is open to everybody. Both film- and winemaking Coppola describes as artforms that can be divided into three parts: the gathering of the source material—grapes or shots; the fashioning of the work—winemaking or editing; and the conclusion—post production or fining and putting into the final package. “As I child I never saw a dinner table without wine,” he tells Forbes. “… I thought it would be a good idea to have a summer house with an acre or two of grapes.”
Back in 2012, Drew Barrymore released her first vino (a pinot grigio) in collaboration with Wilson Daniels winery, and bagged a gold medal at France’s Challenge International du Vin for her efforts. Now in partnership with Carmel Road, the Barrymore Wines label also includes pinot noir and rosé, with all grapes grown in California’s Monterey. “Wine is exploration; it’s travel; it’s education; it’s transportation, bringing you to another time and place,” Barrymore tells Vogue. “It also makes the best gift: You get a bottle of wine, you’re happy.”
In 2014, hip hop superstar Jay-Z acquired a sizeable stake in champagne label, Armand de Brignac, having bought out Soverign Brands. The champagne, commonly known as ‘Ace of Spades’, is famed for its iconic metallic gold bottles with hand-hammered pewter labels and hefty price tags that give its vintage counterparts a run for their money. But the fruity fizz proved itself worthy of the big bucks by being named the Number One Blanc de Noirs in the world following a blind taste by Fine Champagne magazine in 2016, with Bloomberg’s wine critic, Elin McCoy also observing that its full, rich and tangy notes are “way better and more elegant than it has to be for a wine that may end up more status symbol than collectible”.
David and Victoria Beckham
Romantic gestures don’t come much grander than buying your spouse a winery. That’s exactly what the former England football captain did for his Spice Girl-cum-designer wife in 2008 after he signed for US soccer team LA Galaxy, presenting her with a bottle adorned with her name for her birthday. The pair apparently developed a taste for the grape during his stint at Real Madrid, but you’d better get networking if you want to sample some of the Beckham’s Napa Valley batches as their tipples aren’t for public sale, rather reserved for private occasions.
Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie
Their marriage may have faulted, but the reputation of the former power-couple’s organic wine, Miraval, sure is a flourishing, with French newspaper Le Figaro earlier this year labelling it the “superstar of rosé”. Produced on a sprawling estate in the South of France, Miraval is managed—and now co-owned—by legendary local winemakers, the Perrin family. The site’s A-list links also precede the arrival of Pitt and Jolie, having previously hosted Sting and Pink Floyd, among others, who have recorded albums while staying there.
Grapes of Wrath
A quick look at some more questionable celebrity endorsements…
Critics of David Beckham often wonder if there’s anything he won’t put his name to (he once had his own range of fish fingers), though it’s unlikely the former footballer agreed to his photo being borrowed by the makers of the Chinese hair gel ‘Cock Grease’. He’s not the only one to have fallen, er, foul of the ruse, images of Jamie Dornan and Bradley Cooper have also been used to sell the grease whose tagline happens to hilariously read: ‘Xxtra Hard’.
Fancy being buried with rock gods? The Kiss Kasket is a range of coffins adorned with the logo and imagery of heavy metal group, Kiss. “I love livin’, but this makes the alternative look pretty damn good,” said lead singer Gene Simmons of the launch of his morbid merchandise.
“My phone just erased everything I had in it and rebooted,” tweeted a furious LeBron James in 2014. “One of the sickest feelings I’ve ever had in my life!!!” However, said phone was manufactured by Samsung who had recently paid the basketball icon over $150 million for a sponsorship deal. Needless to say, the tweet was quickly deleted.
And finally, President of the United States of America he may well be, but Donald Trump is also the undisputed king of failed—and sometimes fraudulent—ventures. Trump Airlines, launched in 1988, barely made it out of the decade before being surrendered to creditors. Trump magazine also folded two years after its launch in 2007. Sales of Trump Steaks were so bad they were pulled from shelves after just a couple of months, while the defunct Trump University is being sued for employing degree-less lecturers, some with criminal records. The house always wins? Not for Trump’s Atlantic City casinos that filed for bankruptcy three times. Recently released tax documents showed few other individuals in the whole of the US lost more than Trump’s US$1.17 billion between 1985-1994.