Do we really need more celebrity wine?

celebirty wine

Martha, if you’re going to sell wine, then you should hold the glass by the stem.

We’re suffering through another rollout of celebrity wine

Celebrity wine has been part of the wine business at least as long as I’ve been paying attention, whether golfers, football players, or aging punk stars. But we’ve approached a point where one needs to ask: Do we really need more celebrity wine?

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve gotten releases for wine from Martha Stewart, English chat show host Graham Norton, and the Game of Thrones TV series. Given the spotty success of past celebrity wine efforts, as well as its quality, why do these things keep happening?

Because selling wine continues to be less about quality or value, and more about getting shelf space on that incredibly crowded – and getting even more crowded – Great Wall of Wine. My new favorite statistic? That there are about 125,000 different wine labels on U.S. shelves in any one year, but the high frequency wine drinker buys only about 75 bottles a year.

Hence the need to find a way to stand out. How else to explain $50 for a Game of Thrones cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley?

The thinking, of course, is that the overwhelmed wine drinker will buy these wines because of the celebrity appeal, and even pony up a premium because they’re such big fans. This is an immense advantage, and it doesn’t matter that Martha Stewart isn’t necessarily a wine person. You aren’t buying her wine because she knows wine, but because she’s Martha Stewart. So why not pay $12 for shipping?

The other thing that the wine business likes? It really doesn’t matter if the wines are any good or offer a value, since that’s not why anyone buys them. Yes, everyone says they’re terrific, like this quote from the Game of Thrones winemaker: “But the wines also have great pedigree. We source grapes from premier vineyard sites and use the finest winemaking techniques to create wines of incredible richness and texture.” But for $50, you can buy any number of wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Napa that have even better pedigrees.

Which is why I’ll stick with my $10 wine, made by people who don’t pretend to be selling anything other than what the wines are.

2 thoughts on “Do we really need more celebrity wine?

  • Pingback: Terroirist: A Daily Wine Blog » Daily Wine News: Role of Wine Merchants

  • By Brian - Reply

    Hi Jeff,

    Spot on commentary. It’s all a sales scheme to enable them to mark up the wine.

    I did some digging on the Martha Stewart wine club, which Terroirist reposted earlier this week and you may have missed:

    I love that you called out the quote from the GoT winemaker. That is claimed by every single wine brand, but there is no way to substantiate it if the vineyard sources, farming practices, and winemaking techniques aren’t published. Not that the general public or GoT fans really cares.

    Bob Cabral is an excellent winemaker with a solid pedigree, and could even be considered a “celebrity” winemaker among wine enthusiasts. But I’m perplexed that he would work with VWE on this wine. I guess he loves the show THAT much. Seems to me that VWE needs to make a few extra bucks considering how much they’ve been laying out to rapidly acquire scores of wineries the last couple years.

    Cheers, and keep pitching those value wines. Love the blog.


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