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.