Thursday, June 17, 2010

Golf and Celebrity Wine

What is it about wine that attracts so many famous golfers to put their name on a label? Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, and Mike Weir all have had their wines in the LCBO/Vintages. Ernie Els has his own winery in South Africa. Now the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus, is putting his name on some Napa Valley wines produced by Terlato Wines. The target market for these wines is golf clubs and resorts in the US, so don't hold your breath seeing them here.

As someone who’s into wine and golf in a big way, I can see the attraction. Both have gurus who promise, “If you only do it my way, success is guaranteed”. Both winemakers and golfers are always seeking to become better, adjusting this, fiddling with that, hoping that perfection, even for a moment (or a vintage) is just around the corner. And then, after a great vintage, or a great round, you start over again.

Both golf and wine have an “Old World” and a “New World” approach. In wine, the Old World approach emphasizes the letting the vineyard and terroir express itself; the winemaker is there to help that happen. The New World approach puts the winemaker firmly in charge to correct nature’s mistakes and provide a consistent, even homogenized product. (I’m betraying my bias here.)

US PGA tournament courses exemplify New World golf courses: perfect fairways, immaculate greens, nature’s flaws erased. In a word, predictable. Old World golf lets nature’s “imperfections” be part of the experience. And in both golf and wine, you’ll find the Old World approach in the New World and vice versa.

Finally, golf and wine are two things that have tried to shake off their traditionally snobby reps. Many people know only the upscale, intimidating versions of golf and wine. Not all of the snobbery has been stripped away (let’s face it, that’s what attracts some people to both) but both wine and golf are more easily accessible today.

But do you buy celebrity wines? A wine with a golfer’s name (or an actor’s name) on the label? Celebrity endorsements, outside of their expertise, are a puzzle to me. Sure, if Mike Weir is your absolute favourite golfer, why not? Otherwise, I wouldn’t buy a wine with a golfer’s name on the label, any more than I would buy Mondavi golf clubs or Gaja golf balls.

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