The year 2011, it seems, was a good one for celebrity booze. The famous fellows who launched their own labels this year weren't your run-of-the-mill rappers touting trendy liquors or champagnes, though. (I'm looking at you, Diddy.) Instead, this year, several aging rockers, a professional athlete, and an actor decided the time had come to hawk wine, spirits or beer.
Let's start with Hanson, the Jonas Brothers' golden-haired predecessor of the late 1990s. The band of three brothers – who have since hit puberty and chopped off their lengthy locks – announced a venture into beer-making during a talk at the Oxford Union in November, the London Express reported.
Before you ask, yes, they are all well over 21 now. In fact, they are all married with children. The brothers' first beer, an India pale ale aptly dubbed MMMHop, will launch sometime next year.
Retired Houston Rockets center Yao Ming ventured into the wine game with a 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. His luxury label, Yao Family Wines, is being marketed exclusively in China, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
But why use a basketball player to sell wine? Well, Yao is so loved by fans that he earned a starting spot in the NBA All-Star game 8 times based on fan votes – despite only playing a handful of regular season games in his final seasons. Some angry sports writers attribute this in large part to his devoted fans across the Pacific.
So, who better to sell American wine to Chinese customers than the hometown hero? Most imported wine in China comes from France, so Yao jumped at the opportunity to help export American grapes, the Journal reports. One bottle of Yao's Cabernet Sauvignon will fetch $289 in 2012 when it's available for purchase.
The team of wine experts that Yao has partnered with clearly had an ambitious plan in hand. "Taking on a celebrity can help you get some ears and eyes," Brian Steinberg, TV Editor of Advertising Age, tells The Salt.
Meanwhile, the celebs themselves get something out of it, too. "It's more of a fun, experimental and possibly profitable venture for them," says Steinberg. "If it fails, it's okay."
There also seems to be a market for celebrity-branded booze down under. The Shout reports that AC/DC has partnered up with Woolworths in Australia for initial domestic distribution of a few wines. Now, with your dinner you can have Hells Bells Sauvignon Blanc. And why not have dessert with You Shook Me All Night Long Moscato?
Train took a page from AC/DC's songbook when it launched two wines through its Save Me, San Francisco Wine Company: a 2009 Petite Syrah called Drops of Jupiter and a 2010 Chardonnay called Calling All Angels. On the band's blog, guitarist and oenophile Jimmy Stafford wrote that part of the proceeds of Drops of Jupiter will go to charity. The same wine was featured in a top 10 wines under $10 list by Wine Enthusiast.
Musician Dave Matthews and actor Adrian Grenier rounded out the grapes category for the year with eco-friendly wines. Matthews introduced a few Sonoma varietals under the label The Growing Tree and Grenier and a partner debuted a sustainable wine called SHFT.
On the liquor side, Toby Keith threw his cowboy hat into the ring with his Wild Shot mescal. He told Bloomberg Businessweek, "All the whiskey's already spoken for...and everyone's got a vodka, and one of my buddies does tequila... [But] there was no one doing mezcal."
Steinberg says we will probably be seeing more celebrities stepping into the alcohol market in the future.
Here's hoping Hanson's IPA — and anything else headed for the market — won't taste as sugary sweet as the band's pop-infused scatting in 1997's "MMMBop."
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