The World’s Top Wines Made By A-Listers
MR PORTER reviews the celebrity vintages that are actually worth drinking
Hip-hop moguls may have cornered the market in premium vodka endorsements, and branded fragrances are now the almost-exclusive domain of teen pop stars, but investing in a Tuscan or Californian vineyard – producing peachy, buttery chardonnays and laying down cellars of robust, earthy reds – has become the marque of the more urbane celebrity.
Vinous speculation is not just a question of slapping one’s headlining monicker on a green bottle. Making good wine requires large commitments of time and thoughtfulness. It is also requires patience, and in the closed, flighty world of wine, a certain decorum. On the plonk shelves of the celebrity wine shop you can find the likes of Pinot Pride by Mr Tituss Burgess (yes, the flamboyant, rouge-glugging Titus Andromedon from the Netflix comedy The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt now has his own wine brand), but they don’t make the cut here. Oh no.
Our guide to celebrity wine focuses only on the finest, most credible, critic-pleasing vintners, who prefer a discreet style of patronage that lets the taste and tannins do the talking, and whose ambitions are to see their wines in The French Laundry, rather than their own face on the bottle. Here, we assemble eight fine wines that also happen to be owned by celebrities – stock up now in readiness for the forthcoming end of Dry January.
Vineyard: Il Palagio, Tuscany, Italy
Best wine: Il Palagio Sister Moon 2007
Portrait above: photograph by Mr Tim Carrafa/REX Shutterstock
Photograph by Mr Jamie Travezan. Courtesy of Il Palagio
Northumberland-raised Mr Gordon Sumner, aka Sting, took a while to acquire an appreciation of the Tuscan grape. “I’m a beer drinker, culturally,” he’ll tell you. But ever since he and his wife Ms Trudie Styler acquired Il Palagio, a 300-year-old estate and vineyard in prime Chianti country, 18 years ago, the former Police frontman has been making up for lost time. With a range of lyrically titled vintages that reference his back catalogue – When We Dance, Message In A Bottle – Il Palagio is a commercial and critical success.
Mr Brad Pitt
Vineyard: Château Miraval, Provence, France
Best wine: Miraval Côtes de Provence Rosé 2014
Portrait above: photograph by Mr Matt Baron/REX Shutterstock
Photograph by Mr Serge Chapuis. Courtesy of Miraval Estate
When Mr Brad Pitt and Ms Angelina Jolie purchased the 60-hectare Château Miraval estate for €40m in 2008, global oenophiles were sceptical. But within four years, they had proved themselves to both critics and customers. Wisely recruiting help from the respected Perrin family of Château Beaucastel, Wine Spectator soon deemed them to be the makers of the world’s best rosé. After the couple’s break-up, the venture may now be in doubt, but the rosé is still available at Marks & Spencer in the UK for less than £20, and across the Côte d'Azur.
Mr Sam Neill
Vineyard: Two Paddocks, Central Otago, New Zealand
Best wine: Two Paddocks The Fusilier Pinot Noir 2014
Photographs by Mr Christopher D Thompson. Courtesy of Two Paddocks
Mr Sam Neill’s family has run a wine and spirits business for more than 150 years, so he can legitimately claim a place in the industry. But the Jurassic Park actor’s real passion for fine wines began in the late 1970s when he met fellow actor and good-living mentor Mr James Mason. The Two Paddocks winery established by Mr Neill in 1993 (actually four paddocks after recent growth) specialises in pinot noir and sells about 3,000 cases of its five organically produced varieties a year.
Mr John Legend
Vineyard: Jean-Charles Boisset’s Raymond Vineyards, California, US
Best wine: LVE Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Photographs by Mr Eric Ryan Anderson. Courtesy of The Boisset Collection
A decent glass of burgundy and the silky tones of Mr John Legend on the Sonos is a highly seductive combination, so the 2015 launch of the Grammy award-winning singer’s LVE (the Legend Vineyard Exclusive) collaboration with Mr Jean-Charles Boisset’s Napa Valley Raymond Vineyards seemed like an ideal pairing. And true to form, it was a slow-jam smash hit. Wine Enthusiast magazine gave it a 91/100 rating and declared the LVE 2014 “a wine of great presence”. Just like its proprietor, then, based on his recent star turn in La La Land.
Mr Andrea Pirlo
Vineyard: Pratum Coller, Lombardy, Italy
Best wine: Pratum Coller Arduo Rosso Riserva 2009
Photographs courtesy of Pratum Coller
Alcohol and professional sport are not, as a rule, a great mix, but the wine industry has attracted a smattering of the world’s more thoughtful athletes. Canadian former ice hockey star Mr Wayne Gretzky operates an estate and, more significantly, former Milan and Juventus footballer Mr Andrea Pirlo does, too. After playing for the Italian national team and while winding down his career in New York, the magnificently bearded and luxuriously haired Mr Pirlo returned to Brescia and purchased the Pratum Coller winery, which produces 15,000 to 20,000 bottles a year.
Mr Francis Ford Coppola
Vineyard: Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Geyserville, California, US
Best wine: Francis Coppola Black Label Claret 2009
Portrait above: photograph by Mr Vincenzo Landi/REX Shutterstock
Photograph courtesy of The Coppola Winery
The Hollywood director’s passion for the finer things in life is well known, and in 1975 he purchased a vineyard after The Godfather stormed the box office. He threw himself into the project, and produced his first vintage, Rubicon, in 1977, his wife and children personally stomping the grapes, barefoot. After four decades, Mr Coppola and his extended family are now regarded as some of the US’s premier vintners. There are 10 (mostly) reasonably priced but critically appreciated table wines available.
Mr Kyle MacLachlan
Vineyard: Dunham Cellars, Walla Walla, Washington State, US
Best wine: Pursued By Bear Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Photographs by Ms Andrea Johnson. Courtesy of Pursued by Bear
The wine’s name – a droll reference to a Shakespearian stage direction in Act 3 of The Winter’s Tale – leaves you in no doubt that a serious thespian is involved somewhere in the production process. Twin Peaks and Sex And The City’s Mr Kyle MacLachlan is that actor, although the label and brand name of the bordeaux-inspired cabernet might also be a reference to its Washington State home, where black bears are almost as common as white wines. The debut 2005 Pursued By Bear vintage received a 91 rating from Wine Spectator. A fine wine indeed.
Mr Mario Andretti
Vineyard: Andretti Winery, Napa, California, US
Best wine: Andretti Winery Menocino Sangiovese 2012
Photographs courtesy of Andretti Winery
Now 76, the Italian-born, all-American legend Mr Mario Andretti is a bona fide racetrack giant. He is one of only three drivers to win in Formula 1, Nascar, IndyCar and the World Sportscar Championship. His legend lives on, albeit at a slower pace, with his winery in Napa, upstate California, which was purchased with help from his friends, winemaker Mr Bob Pepi and Mr Joe Antonini, former CEO of Kmart. The vineyard began as a hobby after Mr Andretti retired from racing in 1994 and now produces 16 different wines.
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