Once upon a time, celebrities were content to relax on yachts and purchase the occasional pet tiger. But since Sean Combs’s multimillion-dollar partnership with Ciroc Vodka in 2008, investment in wines and spirits has become another favorite celebrity pastime.
The “Era of Celebrity Drinks” has seen its hits, like when George Clooney’s Casamigos was sold to Diageo for $1 billion, and its misses (Pharrell’s Q Qream liqueur, we hardly knew ye). Today, however, most celebrity brands are rosé wines, and consumers are snapping them up.
According to Mike Osborn, founder/executive vice president of Wine.com, “rosé has such a wide appeal” that the site carries more than 670 pink wine products. Jon Bon Jovi and son Jesse Bongiovi’s Hampton Water, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s Chateau Miraval, and Lisa Vanderpump’s Vanderpump Rosé are the site’s second, third and fourth most popular roses, respectively.
Other stars who make rosé include John Legend, Sarah Jessica Parker, Dave Matthews, John Malkovich, Kylie Minogue, Sting and Trudie Styler, Drew Barrymore and Post Malone, whose Maison No. 9 launched in June. On July 9, Cameron Diaz and Who What Wear co-founder Katherine Power debuted a vegan-friendly wine brand, Avaline, that includes white wine and rosé made from organic grapes.
Why do so many celebrities create rosés? For one thing, rosés are popular. According to Nielsen data, rosé sales in the U.S. grew 40% from 2018 to 2019. Osborn says that Wine.com has seen rosés grow 350% year over year. To attach a celebrity immediately gives a brand a way to stand out from the pack.
“For these artists to put their names on the brand, or create a brand themselves…I think it’s a good way to get through the clutter,” he says.
Regine Rousseau, founder/CEO of Shall We Wine, which offers retail tastings of wine, spirits and beer, says that, “if I had the money to put together a wine brand, I would be a fool not to have a rosé in that brand.”
A celebrity endorsement goes a long way to change consumer sentiment, especially if someone may have once associated rosé with their mom’s lipstick-stained glass of white Zinfandel.
“They will be more likely to say, ‘Well, if Angelina Jolie has her name on it, this can’t be my mother’s rosé,’ ” says Rousseau. “So, I think [celebrity rosés are] definitely opening up opportunities for more consumers.”
There’s precedent for this current rosé boom. Some of the earliest celebrity endorsements were for wine. In the 19th century, stars like John Philip Sousa and Jules Verne were featured in ads for infamous cocaine-laced “tonic wine” Vin Mariani.
Many think the first U.S. celebrity wine impresario was Francis Ford Coppola, who began to produce wine in 1979. However, the real trailblazer might be comedian Dick Smothers, who put out bottlings under the name Vine Hill Winery in 1977.
Celebrity names may have caused consumers to pay attention, endorsements were not always associated with quality. According to Osborn, that’s a major difference when it comes to today’s celebrity winemakers.
“Most of these aren’t truly endorsed products, but they’re actually collaborative products,” he says. “These folks are really in it with their heart.”
Today’s celebrity wine branders work typically with a well-known winemaker. For example, Bon Jovi’s Hampton Water is made in collaboration with French winemaker Gérard Bertrand. But stars are also often involved in blending choices and other key decisions.
“It would be really easy to say, ‘It’s celebrity endorsed, and it’s probably not very good,’ ” says Osborn. “[But] they’re all remarkably great wines.”
Rousseau stresses the potential of celebrity branding. “What I hope the consumer does is say, ‘Oh great, I’m trying Miraval, and it’s delicious. Let me try another rosé from Provence [by] another producer,’ ” she says. “I hope that consumers don’t just stay in one particular brand.”
Engagement with celebrity wine is still engagement, she says. “I think that anything that gets people to drink wine is good, right?”