As the football season comes to an end, the basketball season heats up. This is the final episode in a two-part series we’re calling Wine and Basketball, in which we chat with NBA stars who decided to get into the wine game.
This week, Wine Enthusiast Assisted Editor Jacy Topps sat down with four-time NBA champion, Tony Parker. The former San Antonio Spurs point guard was born in Belgium but grew up in the south of France. The NBA Hall of Fame nominee is now venturing into the wine business.
He partnered with entrepreneur and vintner Michel Reybier and will be focusing on the Château La Mascaronne line of wines, as well as Champagne Jeeper.
Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting.
Speakers: Tony Parker, Jacy Topps
Jacy Topps 00:09 Hello, and welcome to the Wine Enthusiast podcast. You’re serving the drinks culture and the people who drive it. I’m Jacy Topps assistant editor here at Wine Enthusiast. As the football season has come to an end, the basketball season is heating up. This is the final episode in a two-part series. We’re calling wine and basketball, in which I chat with NBA players who decided to get into the wine game. This week, I sat down with a four-time NBA champion Tony Parker, raised in France, Tony has been immersed in wine since he was a child. So, listen on as we discuss his early life in France, his love of philanthropy, how his former basketball coach helped deepen his passion for wine and how his partnership with La Mascaronne wines started.
Hi, I’m Jacy Topps assistant editor here at Wine Enthusiast, and we’re continuing our series on wine and Sports. Today, my guest is Tony Parker, formerly with the San Antonio Spurs. Tony is an NBA All-Star and a four-time NBA champion. And now he’s in the wine business. Hi, Tony. Welcome. Thank you so much for joining me today.
Tony Parker 01:26 Thanks. Thanks for having me.
Jacy Topps 01:28 So first, I want to say congratulations, I mean, big news, big news. First, the spring of last year, you started investing in a wine label. And then the end of last year you acquired drone chateau, congratulations, big wine news.
Tony Parker 01:45 Thank you very much. Thank you very much. It’s been a dream of mine. And I always wanted to invest in the wine world is in my culture. I grew up with it. When I was 17 years old and trying for the first time, I fell in love with it. And I was very lucky to have played for a team that my coach really enjoy wine. Like he’s crazy about it. And so it was nice to share that passion with him when I was 19 years old and finally able to afford more wine to share my experience with him because he was reading like all the magazines like he has a huge like wine cellar. So it was pretty cool that after every game, I can share that passion with him and drink some good bottles and talk basketball.
Jacy Topps 02:30 That is amazing. Like I can just, I can see you guys just like you probably geeking out about wine after the games, right?
Tony Parker 02:36 Oh, for sure. For sure. Sometimes we even care about basketball, we are more focused on what bottle we were going to drink.
Jacy Topps 02:44 Well, let’s back up a bit. So I know that you grew up in France, I mean, did your wine journey just start because you were in France, and that was your culture.
Tony Parker 02:54 Exactly that’s how it started because I was around it. And I got exposed to it very early. And so I really had an opportunity to drink some good ones and, and work on my palate to drink some good wine. And so then I started when I was drafted, I was in San Antonio and I wanted to organize like dinner. So I will try to do like dinner a month to invite all those beautiful castles. You know, I started with Bordeaux. I will invite agin us who paid who so all the castles that I liked to come watch a game, have dinner with me and pop in. And then the next day we’ll do a dinner and share you know, our experiences. And I wanted to develop those relationships because I wanted to know more and more. I just wanted to get better with my knowledge and just I was curious.
Jacy Topps 03:45 I mean, and that’s really the fun thing about wine. I mean, like there’s always stories behind it. And it’s really fun to just like open a bottle and just share stories with other people.
Tony Parker 03:56 Exactly. So it’s all about sharing memories. Every time you have something happening in your life, I always love to open a bottle and share with my friends and families. Like I told you earlier, I was doing the dinners in San Antonio. But then I love all my trips to Bordeaux to the vineyards. You meet all the families, you know, his generation after generation, this super passion. And I just love those stories.
Jacy Topps 04:19 So now basketball was going to be forever. So you knew that you were going to get into the wine business.
Tony Parker 04:26 I knew I always wanted to do it. But I didn’t want to do it during my career. Because I knew that it takes a lot of time and I wanted to do it the right way and be in the right situation. And so I always knew I will do it once I retired. And through mutual friends. I met Michelle at the VA. And after talking for a year, he finally gave me an opportunity to invest in him and being that beautiful project jeeper and Elon Musk I won. And I was super happy and I feel like I’m lucky and blessed. because it’s very hard to get in those projects with good products because usually, they’re either in families in generation after generation, it doesn’t change, or the big boys like LVMH, or get on the Lika. They buy everything and you have no chance because the prices are high. So I feel very lucky to have that opportunity.
Jacy Topps 05:19 Yeah. So I hear there’s a story behind the name jeeper, the champagne gene for Well, where did that come from?
Tony Parker 05:27 It’s from the war during the war, the owner of the vineyard, he helped an American soldier that he was one day, then he brought him back. And he brought him back with a deeper, and so in honor to him. Because of everything that happened. He changed the name in Champcheaper.
Jacy Topps 05:45 I love that. I love hearing stories behind names of things. I agree with you. Well, so now you said that you loved for Dow, but that wasn’t the first region that you decided to get into.
Tony Parker 06:00 I drink a little bit of everything I really enjoy. Like if I had to do like, the top five, I will go France, Spain, Italy, U.S. and Chile. That’d be more like my top five that what I drink the most. And what’s the most in my wine cellar.
Jacy Topps 06:18 Okay, so you’re still involved in a little bit of basketball, like you. I know started for kids in Europe.
Tony Parker 06:28 But it was big for me to just give back to my country. I’m animated about that right now, I want to give back and create opportunities for the young generation. So in 2014, about a basketball team in France is in Leo called as well. Then 2017, about the women’s team. And then in 2019, we open an academy in Leo. And it’s all about creating opportunities for kids to be successful in life.
Jacy Topps 06:56 That’s amazing. I mean, hopefully, maybe some of them will actually go into wine after they retire. I’m sure.
Tony Parker 07:02 No for sure. And that’s the most important is to create opportunities, because I know that all the kids that come in my academy and 95% of them, they’re not going to become professional. So my job is to expose them to other opportunities and hopefully create another passion in them. And so that’s why I have all those great partnerships. The last one that we did is a big one, we LVMH we signed a three-year deal. And I’m the ambassador of the institute in their Institute of Michoud excellence. And so I can expose, you know, all my kids to all the different jobs that they have. And obviously LVMH they have a lot of different vineyards. So that can be one of the opportunities.
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So speaking of basketball, I mean like do you think that the skills that basically made you a champion, you know, team building a lot of collaboration? Are those skills kind of like overlapping as far as owning a winery and being in the wine business? Is that really helped you or is it a whole?
Tony Parker 08:51 I think it starts with the same values, you know, you have to be disciplined and you have to work hard and you have to be passionate about it. And so there’s the same value that you have in basketball and same thing in the wine business. You have to have the same kind of qualities, you know, to be successful.
Jacy Topps 09:10 Yeah, absolutely. So and you’ve actually been over like, any live part-time in France.
Tony Parker 09:17 Right now. I’m 50/50 right now. Half in France, half in the U.S. I feel like I have the best of both worlds. I love both countries and businesses in both countries and friends in both countries. So I will always be like back and forth back and forth.
Jacy Topps 09:32 Oh, I wish I had that life
Tony Parker 09:37 it’s a good one not gonna lie.
Jacy Topps 09:39 Yeah. And that definitely means that you get the opportunity to like to walk the vineyards and kind of like really be there during harvest. And yeah, I love those hands dirty.
Tony Parker 09:50 I love those moments. And that’s what I wanted. You know, I wanted to invest to have those opportunities to be at the table when we do the blends when it’s harvest time, all the big decisions in all those meetings with all the technical people felt like my knowledge is getting better. And it was nice to be with the head of lemmas Kahan in the head, of course, and just sharing them exchanging about how we can make the best way we can, you know, with all the different parcels and stuff like that it was the first time this year that I tried, you know, all the parcels and try each wine and starting the process of the blending. It was a pretty cool, cool experience.
Jacy Topps 10:31 Yeah, actually, my first time experiencing harvest was last year, I was in Bordeaux. And I actually got to experience harvests there. So that was fun.
Tony Parker 10:40 Yeah, that’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of work. Yes, definitely a lot of work. A whole new respect, you know, for those people, it’s no joke is a lot of work. And you really have to love your job to do that, like is pretty intense.
Jacy Topps 10:54 Yeah, absolutely. So tell me about your new chateau. Well, it’s not new. But it you just acquired it. Where is it located?
Tony Parker 11:03 It’s located in Avignon. So like, two and a half hours from New York. And it’s at the early stage right now. So I don’t want to like say too much, because we have a lot of work ahead of us. And when I’ll be ready, you know, I’ll talk more about it. But yeah, we had the at the beginning of the process with our project.
Jacy Topps 11:24 Okay, I will be waiting there waiting to hear all about it. So I hear that you are on a quest to drink a lot of all the wines of your birth year.
Tony Parker 11:38 Yes. I’m very lucky. I’m very lucky that a good year, and that is one of the best all-time in the wine business. And so every time I go visit a vineyard, they always use me as a great excuse to open an ad to so we always have good laughs It’s like ice. Okay, you Tony Parker, the owners not gonna say anything, we can open an ad. And most of the people when I drink with them, they’re like, Oh, it’s my first time drinking and add to thanks for coming. So it’s pretty cool.
Jacy Topps 12:10 Yeah, that’s awesome. I’m 79. And I went to Champagne and apparently Champagne I think 79 was a really good year for Champagne. So they were always very happy to open up a 79.
Tony Parker 12:20 There you go. So same good problem as me.
Jacy Topps 12:26 So one last question for you. Yes. When you’re not enjoying wine, from your investments in your labels, what’s in your glass? What are you drinking?
Tony Parker 12:39 More Bordeaux guy. Even going is like really, really good. More like a Bordeaux guy. If I had to choose and I’m in the island and I can only think take one bottle or be something from Bordeaux.
Jacy Topps 12:55 Oh, yeah. Cheers to that. Tony Parker, thank you so much for
Tony Parker 13:02 Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Jacy Topps 13:04 Thanks for having me. And congratulations.
Tony Parker 13:07 Thank you. Thank you. We’ll stay in touch thanks.
Jacy Topps 13:14 Yes, the list of basketball stars who are jumping into the one game continues to grow. This only speaks to wine’s ability to entice everyone, regardless of one’s background or career. As I said before, wine is more than fermented grapes. Its culture and storytelling. And the more diverse and inclusive this industry becomes, the more and more interesting wine will be. What are your thoughts? If you like today’s episode, we love to read your reviews and hear what you think. And hey, why not tell your wine loving friends to check us out to remember, you can subscribe to this podcast on Apple, Google, Spotify and anywhere else you listen to podcasts. You can also go to wine mag.com backslash podcast. For more episodes and transcripts. I’m Jacy Topps. Thanks again for listening.