Celebrities usually have done the hard yards to get where they are in life, rolling in their piles of money, and what better way to reward yourself but with a glass of your very own wine at the end of the day. Yes, it seems to be catching on for the rich and famous folk of the world, with increasing numbers joining the ranks of ‘winemakers' who started their lives out on cinema screens or on stages in huge concert halls. They say if you want to make a small fortune from a winery, start with a really big fortune, so what better thing to do if you've got tonnes of money from being famous than investing in a wine brand?
With this in mind, here's some of the hits and misses of the celebrity wine world…
- Shane Warne – It was way back in 2002 when then Shane Warne Collection first hit the wine world, and though not bowled over by the quality, the wines garnered interest for what the world's leading spin bowler had to offer outside of cricket, underpant scandals, affairs and accidentally taking banned diet pills.
The wines were made by Victorian wine producer Zilzie Estate, known for decent, quaffing wines and certainly not with the same flare Warney showed on the cricket pitch. The range included a Chardonnay and a Cabernet blend, both decent quaffers that went out the door at under 20 bucks. Sadly, if you were thinking about digging up some vintage Warney, you'd be better off searching through YouTube clips of his best feats on the pitch, rather than in the vineyards.
- Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie – Is there anything this super movie star couple can't do? Sure, Mr and Mrs Smith might not be the Godfather Part II in the stakes of cinema excellence, but if it brought this duo together and it now has them making wine in southern France, it can't be all that bad.
Brangelina have a stake in the winemaking game through their Provence winery Chateau Miraval – their life work culminating in an easy drinking, pretty, pink rose wine. Nothing more profound, but their rose sure is great for drinking with your legs dangling into the Mediterranean. Still, it's likely Angelina's best work since Girl, Interrupted.
- Maynard Keenan – One of the few ‘celebrities' who actually pulls on the gumboots and does the winemaking, Tool front man and rock n roller Maynard Keenan works his vineyards and winery from his home base in Arizona. Keenan has successfully transferred his energy from the rock and roll world to the slightly less groupie obsessed work of winemaking.
To his credit, he has immersed himself in his passion, networking widely in the international wine community, and doing the hard yards. In more local Australian context, he's great mates with Penfold's chief winemaker Peter Gago, and is a huge fan of Grange to the extent that it's rumoured he has a complete set of the wines, dating back to the first production in 1951. He's also made a collaborative wine with boutique winemaker Taras Ochota from Ochota Barrels in the Adelaide Hills called ‘A Sense Of Compression', which was quick to sell out.
Keenan's winery is Caduceus, and produces full-flavoured, elegant, balanced wines under the Caduceus and Arizona Stronghold labels. Keenan has worked hard to establish vineyards in what would seemingly be inhospitable climate of Arizona's heartland, and is creating wines of great quality and that inimitable French notion of ‘terroir'. They're worth tracking down for something unique and tasty.
- Olivia Newton John – From the girl next door to tight spandex wearing Sandy in Grease, Olivia Newton John sure knows how to be many things to many people, and can include in that the nominal title of ‘winemaker' too. Yes, in 2002, with hits like Physical a distant memory, Newton John and her long term collaborator Pat Farrar launched Koala Blue Wines with a Chardonnay and Shiraz that didn't go quite as platinum as Newtown John's best hits.
The wines formed part of a larger program of ‘Aussie produce' that Newtown John and Farrar were working with, and were produced by the little known but big company called Snowdon Wines. Sadly, the wines pretty much skipped Australia and went on to be big hits in the USA, where they were sold mostly through large grocery store style retailers.
- Antonio Banderas – Nothing like a swarthy Spaniard to get the blood flowing, and what gets Spaniard blood flowing like smooth, velvety red wines. Antonio Banderas makes wine. Yep, you better believe it. Though we've loved him in many movies, his performances in animations like Puss in Boots and the Shrek series kind of mimic his involvement in the wine industry where his presence is felt, but the physical work is left to someone else…
The winery is the famed wine region of Ribera del Duero in Spain, and is aptly named Anta Banderas. Here, Banderas and the team produce red wines and cheeky rosés - the wines are well-received in wine sniffing circles, and Banderas is rumoured to want to be more involved in the production process, in future years.
- Sam Neill – You're not going to have to have your finger chopped off, ala The Piano, to get at Sam Neill's wines – accessible, fine wines produced from Neill's own Central Otago, New Zealand vineyards are readily available and ready to go, and almost as exciting as being chased by a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Neill's Two Paddock winery focuses on the grape varieties Pinot Noir and Riesling with wild praise from wine critics around the world. Detail in viticulture and one of the most renowned Central Otago winemakers as part of the team, has conspired in these wines getting rave reviews almost universally. The wines are almost as elegant as Neill himself.
- Greg Norman – Golf and winemaking are pretty similar in some respects – both involve large plots of land being tended to by expert gardeners; it's just that one specialises in grass and the other in grapes. Greg Norman Estates produces wines from Australia, California and Argentina, travelling the globe almost as much as Norman did at the peak of his sporting career.
The wines are known for their generous flavour and affordable prices, almost exclusively being sold in the USA rather than his former-Australian homeland, yet still referencing the bold styles that first influenced his early winemaking agenda.
- Dan Akroyd – Ok, so vodka isn't quite wine, but we've given the hilarious Dan Akroyd a leave pass because he's just that kind of cool. Frustrated that the world wasn't producing a vodka that was additive free, Akroyd teamed up with a buddy of his to conceive a vodka that was so pure, that it was almost going to help keep away hangovers… he's still working on that.
Crystal Head Vodka comes in unique skull-shaped bottles and is distilled for maximum purity, minimum imperfections, wicked parties and best drunk with an olive floating in it. And though vodka occupies a large chunk of Akroyd's time now, we will concede that he also makes this list because he is the owner and proprietor of Dan Akroyd Wines with fruit sourced from both Ontario, Canada and Sonoma, California. Nice work, Dan.M
- Savanna Samson – A touch risqué here and perhaps without quite the same kind of celebrity as the rest of the people on this list, but it's pretty impressive that acclaimed adult movie star Savanna Samson has turned her back on her career hotting up the screen, and shifted over into winemaking. There is life after porn.
While he previous work life may not neatly segue to winemaking, Samson claims a long interest in the art of fermenting grapes, and has used her former career to buy into the La Fiorita winery based in Montalcino, Italy. Samson's wines are co-made by a well-regarded Italian winemaker, and specialise in traditional red wines and some more experimental blends, focussing on the region of Tuscany.
- Francis Ford Coppola – If you had to make a top ten list of the greatest movie directors of all time, you'd be hard pressed not including the very great Francis Ford Coppola. If you had to make a list of top ten movie directors making wine, you'd again probably only get to two or three people, but thankfully Coppola is in that line-up as well.
Francis Ford Coppola Winery is actually very well-regarded and produces wines across a number of ranges, from affordable, cheaper wines, through to high-end, finer examples. The winery is based in California, and the impressive cellar door features a selection of his movie memorabilia.