Monday, March 25, 2013

Rant: Forget Robert Parker, Celebrities Have The Power

The local Boston news has been highlighting the issue of direct shipping of wine. That is a very good thing. As Free The Grapes states: "Massachusetts wine lovers still cannot purchase wines directly from out-of-state wineries, even though the legislature has had three years to act on an appellate court ruling directing the legislature to correct its unconstitutional ban on wine shipments." Bills seem to languish each year, going nowhere, and new bills are currently in the House. Will anything happen this year?

The reason this issue, which previously seemed to get minimal media coverage, has been highlighted recently is because of a celebrity. Drew Bledsoe, a retired football player, was once the quarterback for the New England Patriots, prior to Tom Brady. After his retirement, one of Drew's projects was to start a winery, Doubleback, located in the Walla Walla region of Washington. Drew made a visit to the State House to try to convince lawmakers that they should pass a bill to allow for direct shipping of wine from out of state wineries.

Despite the importance of this issue to many Massachusetts residents, it has taken a celebrity to bring it to the forefront. This is not the first time that celebrities have shown their power in the wine and alcohol world. Forget Robert Parker, it is the celebrities which possess the true power. And the celebrities are able to do so without the use of the 100 point rating system. It is often said that Millennials don't want gatekeepers and want recommendations from their friends, yet they seem willing to follow the preferences and promotions of celebrities.

Consider how many rap stars have promoted different wines, from Champagnes to Moscato, and their promotion has led to increased, sometimes significant, consumption. Sales of Moscato recently grew by over 80% in one year, due in large part due to rap star promotion. Perez Hilton and Cee Lo Green have been promoting Ty Ku Sake, helping to elevate its sales. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have recently released a Provence Rosé wine and the first 6000 bottles sold out in five hours. These are but a few examples and celebrity owned wines often seem to get far more attention than many other wines.

Do consumers believe that celebrities know more about wine than other people? That seems doubtful. It seems more that people want a connection to celebrities and they believe that buying wines they promote helps to form such a connection. We also have a very celebrity driven culture, where many people seem more concerned about the daily activities of celebrities rather than the problems of our world. For too many people, the question of who the Kardashians are dating seems to take precedence over climate change, the war in Afghanistan and the debt crisis. There is something very wrong with that.

Complain all you want about Robert Parker's influence. At least he has devoted much of his life to wine. I think it is the celebrities who possess the true power and more often than not, they use that power to make money, to sell their own products. And they may know very little about wine. Far more people sheepishly follow celebrities rather than follow Parker. It just seems wrong. Why follow a wine recommendation from a celebrity?

How do you feel about celebrities promoting wine? Do their recommendations get you to buy wine?

1 comment:

streetlevel said...

Celebrities really do have the power. They have so much influence, it is crazy.