People often send me articles about wine that they’ve found online, and a couple of friends this week sent me links to the news that Graham Norton will be getting his name on a vintage of Invivo’s single vineyard New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Invivo have been sending him wine to share with the guests on his BBC chat show for a couple of years; it sounds like the association with the popular chat show host has not done their brand any harm in spite of some rather unpleasant allegations from Norton’s ex-partner earlier this year regarding his appetite for alcohol.
Of course, the most efficient way of getting your name on a bottle of wine is to buy a vineyard. We’ve previously talked about the cult of celebrity wines and certainly it seems like becoming a winemaker is fast becoming the hippest thing that a celebrity can do – just look how quickly Brad and Angelina’s wine sold out – 6000 bottles within 5 hours of being offered online.
But let’s face it, not all celebrities are as cool as Brad and Angelina. So for this week’s blog, I wanted to address whether the wine industry could provide post-career sanctuary for another kind of celebrity – namely the kind whose star is fading fast, and for whom reality TV is beckoning or has already become the norm. What could be cooler, when you are no longer the director’s first choice and your career is on the slide, than turning your back on film and TV in favour of becoming an ultra-hip producer of fine wine?
The celebrities I’m referring to can usually be found in straight-to-dvd, or worse, made-for-tv films that can usually be viewed at around 9pm on one of the channels you get with your digital TV package but rarely click on. And with good reason too. But in the interest of research, and having a bit too much time on my hands in the month of August, I tuned in to watch “Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus”, “Piranhaconda” and “Sharknado.” Oh, and “Sharktopus”, on SyFy. The common ingredients of all of these films is 1. a leading actor that was once quite famous but who you had forgotten about, and 2. the presence of some sort of prehistoric mutation of an aquatic species (or a hybrid of two species) whose mutation makes it large and deadly and possibly airborne.
So who are the cast of these terrible films? Well, there’s Tara Reid, best known for being in the early American Pie films. Michael Madsen – best known for Reservoir Dogs, more recently known for Celebrity Big Brother and Piranhaconda. Debbie Gibson, an 80s pop starlet that faded into obscurity, only to re-emerge as lead scientist boffin in Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus. Rachel Hunter, I think she was married to Rod Stewart. Did she do anything else? I’m not sure. Anyway, whoever they are, I bet they wish they’d invested in a few acres of vines back when they were at the top of their game – a nice little nest egg and a more respectable profession than being That Guy from Piranhaconda.
It’s probably too late for Madsen, Reid and the others to become ultra-hip winemakers in the manner of Brad and Angelina. Who would want to buy wine from That Guy from Piranhaconda? But there are others whose careers are similarly struggling for whom the wine trade could still provide a decent income, and most importantly, credibility, when the roles dry up. With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of guidelines for celebrities that are thinking of investing in a vineyard:
- You need to do it while you are still famous, otherwise no one will remember who you are.
- You need to do it while you are still cool, otherwise no one will care.
- You need to do it while you are still rich. It’s pretty expensive.
- Your wine needs to not be bad. Look out for reviews of Drew Barrymore’s notoriously horrible Pinot Grigio if you need clarification of this. There is no point making bad wine instead of bad films – no one will forgive you for the bad wines, whereas Sharktopus actually seems to have gained a bit of a cult following.
- Further to point 4, it needs to be a bit better than ‘not bad’. It needs to be good. Because the wine industry can be just as cruel as the film/music/sport industry. It is not better to make bad wine that it is to make bad films, so you might as well get it right from the start.
- Get involved! Embrace your new trade. Frolic in the vineyard and have someone take pictures of you hard at work in the winery. Don’t just put your name on the bottle – do you want to be a winemaker or not?
- Take it seriously. Try to win an award – a good one, not a made up one. Let’s face it, you were never going to win an Oscar for Piranhaconda.
- Don’t put a picture of yourself on the bottle. It isn’t cool. It’s just creepy.
- Don’t assume that just because a wine is expensive, it is good. You’re not fooling anyone. Will people pay more for a wine because it bears your name? Some would, probably – but they won’t buy it a second time if it isn’t worth the money.
- Don’t be fooled into tasting your own wine on live TV and describing them as ‘tainted and insipid’, like poor old Sir Cliff Richard.
Celebrities, the wine industry can be just as cruel as the industry you are running away from – don’t assume that your name will get you very far. But if you would rather be making good wine than bad films, don’t wait until Sharktopus is on your resume to buy a vineyard, because by then it’ll be too late.