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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What’s the deal with “celebrity” wines? Why do so many famous people make wine, and do any of them make good wine?

—Bobby, New Orleans

Dear Bobby,

It might seem like a new phenomenon, but I’ve heard it goes back all the way to ancient Greece, when playwrights and philosophers had their own vineyards. I think it’s a testament to the power and romance of wine that accomplished folks that have already made their mark on the world as athletes, actors or singers are drawn to create something new in the world of wine. That’s the romantic explanation. The more practical answer for some celebrities is that they know they can sell something with their name on it, so why not?

There are plenty of good wines with celebrities behind them. Director Francis Ford Coppola owns Inglenook in Napa, Brad Pitt and Angelia Jolie recently made a French rosé that was so delicious, we put it in our Top 100 wines of 2013, as with Napa Cabernet from football player Charles Woodson in 2014. There are many more examples of terrific, good or even just quaffable wines with celebrity names on them than there are really terrible ones.

Of course, there are various quality celebrity wines out there, just as there are various levels of celebrity involvement—some celebs like race-car driver Scott Pruett actually live on the same land as their vineyard and are actively involved in the production. But Marilyn Monroe didn’t have much to do with the Marilyn Merlot that has her image on the bottles. Sometimes famous names are attached to surplus wines, other times the famous person is a driving force behind making the wine.

—Dr. Vinny

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