Gary Law: Sports stars play in the beverage business
Gareth Bale is not a drinker – he openly admits he ‘dislikes the taste’ of alcohol – but as Wales approach this year’s World Cup he launched its own brand of beer. Coincidentally, Novak Djokovic, who is also not a drinker and ‘didn’t enjoy it so much’ when his coach forced him to drink a celebratory beer after his Wimbledon victory in the summer, also joined the game. beverages last month with the launch of its wine line.
The entry of these sports superstars into the alcohol business is far from a new phenomenon. Many before them invested some of the millions they earned in a wine or spirits business, or happily associated their public profile with a brand. For many, the path from elite sport to the beverage industry is a well-trodden retirement.
Logically, strong drinks and the world of high-flying sport should at best go hand in hand. Alcohol is hardly a performance-enhancing drug in anyone’s book and many glittering careers have been cut short as a result of hitting the bottle too hard. But still, our sports heroes can’t help but get into the beverage business.
To be fair to the Wales captain and Wimbledon champion, ‘Bale Ale’ is only available at Tesco in Wales and part of the proceeds will be used to develop grassroots football, while Djokovic Chardonnay and Syrah are the products of a small-scale winery owned by Novak’s uncle and can only be purchased in Serbia.
Other sports greats, however, have been less timid about their involvement in the business. Ex-footballers keen to score in the drinks trade include former Leicester star and Austrian national team captain Christian Fuchs, who is the high-profile face of a range of vodka, gin and rum distilled in English brand called NoFuchsGiven, while 90s Rangers hero and prolific goalscorer for Denmark Brian Laudrup is the driving force behind Laudrup Dry Gin, billed as a Scottish spirit “with a touch of Denmark”.
But David Beckham was ahead of them both. In 2014, the former England captain signed on with Diageo to spearhead the global launch of Haig Club, the famous brand’s first new whiskey in 30 years. “I always wanted to be a whiskey drinker,” Beckham later confessed, “but being an athlete, I never got into that. I never drank too much in my career.
Just as Bale isn’t the only footballer to sign up with a drinks brand, Djokovic isn’t the only tennis player to be drunk. Other sports stars who got there before him include former world number one Andy Roddick, who owns a stake in a small batch of Tennessee bourbon called Sweetens Cove which sells for around $200 (£175) a bottle , and the Indian Vijay Amritraj, who launched his own collection of fine wines during the Wimbledon fortnight in 2014.
For successful golfers, the drink of choice is wine, and the list of big names that have their own label reads like a who’s who of the sport. These days you can fill your glass thanks to Ernie Els, Fred Couples, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Retief Goosen, Luke Donald, Cristie Kerr, Mike Weir and David Frost, although the first of the great golfers to see the potential to own a wine business were Greg Norman and the late Arnold Palmer, who both put money into vineyards around 1996.
Another sporting legend serious about his wine is former cricketer Sir Ian Botham, whose bottles reflect his impact on the game with names like All-Rounder and the 76, 80 and 81 series reminiscent of important years. of her career. Botham also recently launched a London dry gin called 22 Yards – the length of a cricket pitch.
The spirits business seems less attractive to sports stars. One of the few to dive into the business is Irish MMA star Conor McGregor, who in 2018 launched Proper 12 Irish Whiskey – distilled in Bushmills and named after his hometown of Crumlin, where the postcode is Dublin 12 – despite selling his share of the business last year for $600m (£525m).
Across the pond, some of the biggest names in American basketball have also invested money and reputation in the tough stuff. The richest of them all, Michael Jordan, whose personal fortune is estimated at $1.5billion (£1.3billion), is a partner in Cincoro Tequila, aimed at the luxury market and selling for up to $350 (£306) a bottle, while LeBron James is linked to 1707 Lobos Tequila, although it is more reasonably priced at around $50 (£43) a bottle. Dennis Rodman, famous for blowing the millions he earned during his playing career, is firmly in the budget market with his $20 Bad Boy vodka.
And finally, closer to home, let’s not forget the drinking exploits of some former Ulster Rugby stars. In 2014, South African players Ruan Pienaar and Robbie Diack launched their Ballybosch wine, sourced from the Stellenbosch winery owned by Diack’s sister and brother-in-law, while successful brand Hellbent, run by a Another South African ex-Ulster duo, Louis Ludik and Schalk van der Merwe, also import wines from Stellenbosch and a brandy from the Incendo distillery near Johannesburg.
If you’re a fan of any of the sports legends mentioned, you can usually get their own brand drinks from specialty wine shops or online retailers. It seems that even in retirement they can still give you something to cheer about.
UK drink price comparison – what an online map reveals
In these cost-conscious times, a fascinating online kit is the UK Cheap Tipple Finder, which compares the price of a range of drinks in Wetherspoons pubs across the country. He reveals that a pint of Guinness at Wetherspoons in Belfast costs £3.59, compared to £2.69 in Consett, Co Durham, while a £3.49 pint of Carling in Belfast costs £1 less in Rotherham .
Eye-watering prices, however, are at Wetherspoons Airport. You’ll pay £8.35 at Heathrow for a glass of Merlot which costs £2.85 in Belfast city centre. Check it out at pantryandlarder.com.
Bottle of the week by Patricia Maginn
PIEROPAN SOAVE CLASSICO 2021
The Pieropan family has been producing wines in the stony hills of Soave since the 1890s and were the first producer in Italy to bottle a wine with the name Soave on the label.
The 2021 vintage was of excellent quality, and this straw yellow wine has aromas of almond blossom and marzipan, with a hint of citrus, while the flavors of ripe fruit are perfectly balanced by crisp acidity. . RRP £18.49, available from The Sipster, Whiteabbey; The Vineyard, Belfast; The Wine Rack, Stewartstown; The Crushed Grape, Derrylin; Donard Wines, Newcastle; KWM Wines, Kilkeel; Magee’s Wine Lodge, Crossgar.