Morten Andersen, 48, retired last year from a 25-year career as a kicker in the National Football League. Andersen was born and raised in Denmark, where he excelled at soccer, but a year in Indianapolis as a high-school foreign-exchange student found him using his skills on the football field. A scholarship to Michigan State followed, where his performance, including a 63-yard field goal, earned him a spot in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints and, later, the Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons. Andersen holds numerous NFL records, including the most career points, most games played and most field goals. Wine drinkers, however, may most easily recognize Andersen from a 2003 incident that found him in the hot seat after his coach promised him a bottle of wine for making a field goal—a reward the NFL found to be against regulations. These days, Andersen lives with his family in Atlanta, Ga., where he has a 1,300-bottle wine cellar. Wine Spectator caught up with Andersen to discuss his collection and find out what happened to that controversial bottle.
Wine Spectator: How did you get into wine?
Morten Andersen: My parents have a house in the Languedoc in a little village called Aigues-Vives, with a plot of Grenache grapes. All our vacations when I was young were spent at that house, playing in the vineyard. A local farmer takes care of the vineyard, and the money that's made from selling the grapes to the cooperative pays for the upkeep. I think I was a teenager when I had my first glass of wine with my parents. It's quite normal in Europe.
WS: But then you came to the United States, where drinking wine as a teenager is not really part of the culture.
MA: Far from it. I came here as an exchange student in 1977. A lot of things were different over here. I didn't become interested in collecting wine and learning more about it until I moved to New Orleans [to play for the Saints]. I lived there for 13 years. I was around the good restaurants down there, and with good food comes good wine. Emeril Lagasse—I was one of his first customers when he opened his own place.
WS: When did you start collecting?
MA: In New Orleans I had a bachelor place. The kitchen was not really the main focus of the house. That was probably the hot tub in the back yard, let's be honest. When I moved to Atlanta, I had the space for [a cellar]. I transformed one of the storage rooms in my house into a wine cellar.
My very first purchase for the cellar was with a couple other guys. A restaurant in Atlanta was closing its doors and it had an inventory of wine, most of it 1997 Cabernets—Caymus, Opus One, Silver Oak, Joseph Phelps Insignia. There were about 250 bottles, and we split it up between the three of us. Now, I probably have about 1,300 bottles.
Andersen in his home cellar in Atlanta, with a portion of his 1,300-bottle collection.
My absolute favorite sparkling wine is Krug. I met Mr. Krug in New Orleans after a game. I gave him a jersey and … we were second-lining together in this restaurant. That's when you get napkins or handkerchiefs and you wave them over your heads and you dance kind of single file through the restaurant. He had my jersey on. We were half-drunk on his great Champagne that he was pouring all night.
I had a teammate from New Orleans, Terry Hoage, who makes great wine out in California. He was a defensive back with the Saints. I set him and his wife up on a blind date. Now they have a vineyard out in California. He makes Rhône varietals and those are excellent.
WS: So what actually happened between you and Kansas City Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil?
MA: With a couple seconds to go in a game against the Oakland Raiders, I had the chance to win the game on a field goal. The Raiders had called time-out. I happened to look over and Coach Vermeil was saying, "Come over here," which was odd because I was focused on what I was about to do. I ran over, and he said, "When you make this kick, I have a bottle of Bryant Family Cabernet Sauvignon for you." And I asked, "What vintage?" I couldn't believe he was talking about wine in this situation. I made the kick. The NFL got wind of it and decided it was against the salary cap rules.
WS: Did you ever get the bottle?
MA: Can't talk about that.
WS: Not even as a retired player?
MA: Well, there was a brown bag in my locker a couple days later. I'm not really sure what was in there. [Laughs.]