Many of us have dreamed, as we savour a glass of our favourite vintage, of owning our own vineyard; cultivating the vines, selecting the grapes and overseeing their transformation into delicious wine. Perhaps it is unsurprising, then, to learn just how many familiar names from the television, film, music and sports industries have made this dream a reality.
Take Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie; their first vintage of Miravel Rosé sold out almost instantly. Cliff Richard, on the other hand, was once tricked by chef Gordon Ramsay into rubbishing his own Vida Nova from the Algarve. There are many celebrity winemakers, and you may already have some of their vintages in your wine cellar.
The famous French actor proclaimed a couple of years ago that he could “absorb” 14 bottles of wine in a day; thus it seems logical that he should produce it himself to ensure a continuous supply! He has been in the winemaking business since 1979 and currently owns a vineyard in the Loire Valley, Château de Tigné, as well as joint ventures with wine magnate Bernard Magrez.
Since relinquishing his French citizenship he has said that he would like to sell all his French property, including those wine assets, but he remains involved with the vine, both off screen and on – his latest role is in the comedy Saint Amour, which is said to be something like a French Sideways.
Maynard James Keenan
He may not be the most recognised name on this list, but Maynard James Keenan is arguably the most interesting, from a winemaking point of view. The frontman of progressive metal band Tool regards himself as a winemaker first and musician second, with the recording and touring responsibilities of his musical career scheduled to fit around harvesting, processing and bottling dates.
The grandson of Italian winemakers, he owns and runs both a vineyard and a winery (Merkin Vineyards and Caduceus Cellars) in the Verde Valley of Arizona. It’s not an area well-known for wine production, but the high desert conditions make it ideal and Keenan’s popularity has helped to bring Arizona wine to the main stage.
A documentary featuring Keenan’s winemaking as a focus of the Arizona wine industry, Blood Into Wine, was released in 2010.
Francis Ford Coppola
Francis Ford Coppola, the legendary director, is another celebrity with a long history of winemaking. Following the success of The Godfather, he purchased an estate in the Napa Valley, and turned to winemaking to make a little extra money when Apocalypse Now left him with some financial difficulties.
Cinematic and winemaking success then went hand in hand, with the proceeds of Bram Stoker’s Dracula allowing him to expand his land, acquiring further vineyards and the chateau. He was then able to establish his label to the extent that he could make more money from wine than from movies. In 2012, he acquired the Inglenook label, a name which once held a great regard which Coppola is set on restoring. Coppola is now one of the largest wine producers in America.
Of course, whilst the addition of a celebrity name may make the wine a little more interesting, it is inevitably the quality of the land, the grapes and the skill of the winemaker that make a vintage worth drinking. Many celebrity wine brands lack this, and are only pulled from mediocrity by the connection of their name. Sometimes, however, the two go hand in hand, creating the ideal bottle to fetch from your cellar to liven up conversation at your table.