Tony Parker Euro Steps into French Wine

The retired NBA star talks about investing in rosé and Champagne, chasing bottles with “Pop” and why he doesn't collect wine

Tony Parker Euro Steps into French Wine
Tony Parker raises a glass to his new career in the wine business. (Courtesy of Château La Mascaronne)
Jun 3, 2022

Tony Parker was known for his quickness on the basketball court. But the former All-Star point guard's foray into the wine business is forcing him to make slower plays in the vineyard. Parker, who assisted the San Antonio Spurs to four championships, recently partnered with French businessman and longtime friend Michel Reybier to help grow three of Reybier's brands: La Mascaronne, Jeeper Champagne and Michel Reybier Champagne.

Parker, 40, started his professional basketball career in France before being drafted by the Spurs in 2001. While he grew up surrounded by great wines, the French-American credits his playing years in San Antonio as a learning period, and later tracked down coveted bottles with head coach Gregg Popovich and invited Bordeaux wine stars to Spurs games (with bottles of 1982 Bordeaux for post-game recovery).

Parker recently spoke to Wine Spectator’s Shawn Zylberberg from Provence about bringing Bordeaux to San Antonio, his new partnership with Reybier and his wine of choice for those championship celebrations.

Wine Spectator: When did your passion for wine start?

It all started from my upbringing. Growing up in France I was exposed very early to the wine world, going to nice restaurants with family and learning to pair wine with cheese. I liked it from the get-go. Arriving to the NBA early in my career, I was lucky to have a coach who was a bigger wine fan than me and was reading every magazine. We were sharing a lot of wine on long road trips and going to restaurants around the U.S. trying to find the best bottle.

Did you bring French wine culture over to San Antonio?

During my career I would host a dinner at my house once a month and invite the best château [reps] from wineries such as Pétrus and Haut-Brion, and they'd come to a Spurs game as well and host a dinner for the team and they would open all the great bottles. I'm very lucky because I was born in '82 and it's one of the best years ever in Bordeaux and every time I'm very lucky because they open an '82 for me.

The NBA wine culture is blowing up. Was it like that in the 2000s?

It's funny you say that, because when I first arrived in the NBA, [wine] was not a thing. But in the last five to seven years, everybody is drinking wine and it's cool. It's funny seeing those guys having a lot of fun and sharing those experiences on social media with bottles at dinner.

What did you celebrate all those NBA championships with?

Dom Pérignon.

Do you collect wine?

I don't collect. I drink. I buy, then I drink.

How did you make the move into the wine business?

When I decided to retire, [wine] was one of the businesses I wanted to invest in because I really enjoyed that passion during my career. I visited châteaus in Bordeaux a few times and I've been to Burgundy, where I co-hosted Hospices de Beaune in 2019.

I've known Michel [Reybier] for a long time and we connected from the start of our friendship. He's one of the few people I take advice from in the business world. We kept talking over the years and he found out I loved wine and Champagne. We talked about the collaboration at dinner [at La Réserve Genève]. We asked ourselves, "Why not do this adventure together?"

When we decided to join forces on this project, I felt I was very lucky because I can learn so much from him as one of the best businessmen in France. He wants to do well in the business and it's nice to have advice from him. The values around his properties matched what I wanted to do with me giving back to my community.

What does the collaboration look like behind the scenes?

The 2022 harvest will be the first under the new partnership. I'm not just an ambassador but involved day-to-day as a partner. I'll be in the board meetings and participate in the vision of what we want to do with the rosé and Champagne brands, and how we want people to perceive those drinks. It's not like I'm going to do a commercial and that's it.

I am not on the Bordeaux team yet. I'll start with the rosé and Champagne and if everything goes well, we'll go from there and open up to Michel's other labels and hotel businesses. It's perfect for me because I love rosé. It's my favorite drink when I'm on vacation. And I've been drinking Champagne for many years so it's a good way to start.

It also made sense to start with those brands because [Michel] just acquired [La Mascaronne and Jeeper Champagne]. The most important thing for me is to make sure everything is done naturally [with organic practices], taking care of the dirt and doing it the right way due to what's happening with the world's climate.

Did you get any responses from former teammates about the partnership?

Not yet, but coach Pop texted me and was like, "Get me some bottles, you got my address!"

People basketball sports France Provence Champagne

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