Products named after celebrities aren’t unusual. There’s generally a logical relationship between the celeb, their claim to fame and the product. And as a rule, particularly if they are fast moving consumer goods, those brands are short lived. Who could forget… or maybe remember Mullos breakfast cereal named after legendary radio genius Doug Mulray or a similar one for the popular talking breakfast bath mat Agro.
Last month the Rolling Stones’ Forty Licks Merlot was unleashed on the world at the 25th Anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The A$20 a bottle’s label is reminiscent of the artwork for the band’s 2002 Forty Licks album, which perhaps gives a different connotation to the notion of getting lickered up. This would not appear to be a flash in the pan or one-off vintage either, one of the Stone’s earlier forays into promotional bottles of wine is emblazoned with the classic tongue logo. Yet another graphic opportunity to get lickered up.
“If you’re gonna get wasted, get wasted elegantly”
But then what can you expect when the band’s Keith Richards, hardly the picture of sobriety, had a band called the X-Pensive Winos in the nineties? As a rock guitarist he has always cut a memorable figure with his horseman of the apocalypse-like garb and features and the unique set-up of his guitar where to better accommodate his crashing licks with a typical rocking open “A” chord, he has the top “A” string removed. So shortcutting the process of developing his – or their – own wine label is a natural progression.
“Forty Licks” is available through the “wine-that-rock” website, which also boasts “Woodstock Chardonnay” (that would be scary if it was a 1969 vintage) and Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon Cabernet Sauvignon”. And its pedigree would indicate that it is well suited to all manner of X-Pensive Winos being made by the award-winning Mendocino Wine Co, which practices sustainable farming, uses 100 per cent solar and wind power together with eco friendly packaging.
Over the border in Canada another Stones offering, “Sympathy for the Devil”, icewine has been released under a licensing partnership between the band and a British Columbian wine company.
Two versions of the $140 icewine are made in limited quantity from grapes grown exclusively in the Okanagan Valley from a 100 per cent pinot noir clone and the other from a 100 per cent riesling clone.
The whole rock star label thing appears to have started when Celebrity Cellars was launched in 1997. Its first attempt at a celebrity wine label, “Dead Red” which was associated with the Grateful Dead, came unstuck when Jerry Garcia the band’s lead singer died in a rehab clinic. A non-alcoholic Garcia wine was produced instead and sold more than 35,000 cases. Since then the company has produced Frank Sinatra, Streisand, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Celine Dion and Madonna as wine labels.
While some wine marketing pundits have described this emerging phenomenon as “the next new marketing oasis” you have to wonder just how prophetic were Keith Richards’ infamous words, “If you’re gonna get wasted, get wasted elegantly”?