The quest to find new wine drinkers in this ‘NoLo’ (alcohol free/no alcohol) age is complicated. Anecdotal evidence shows that Australia’s general population is shifting down a few gears to improve its wellness. Although it is often wheeled out as a health drink, drinking too much wine (or any other alcohol for that matter) is not good for you. Immoderation can lead to alcoholism, obesity, diabetes and early death. But for most people there are options to modify drinking habits and build a healthier lifestyle.
Racing car driver Daniel Ricciardo is an unlikely hero of this new age of drinking where responsible behaviour is celebrated and excess is increasingly scorned. The physicality, fitness, skill and brain power at his level can only be achieved by being highly functional. His endearing ordinariness and extraordinary achievements as a Formula 1 driver makes him an identifiable and aspirational figure. His famous ‘shoey’, where he drinks from his shoe, has become a symbol of joy and classic Aussie larrikinism. Champagne houses may not approve, but surely it’s better than a shake of the sauce bottle?
Ricciardo’s unifying personality, generosity and genuine sense of fun are neatly combined. The St Hugo DR3 collaboration distils these qualities with flair. This is a celebrity wine brand that offers authenticity and a sense of purpose. St Hugo carries the provenance and Ricciardo brings the track record. Pernod Ricard’s values and commitment to sustainability also offer an underlying credibility to the story.
The co-branding partnership between St Hugo and DR3 is about the most perfect start for a celebrity wine project. The marketing power and worldwide distribution of Pernod Ricard is a powerful platform. The sourcing and wine production expertise is also excellent. Peter Munro is a perfect role model winemaker, with both a science and applied background in oenology. He is also a down-to-earth type who prefers walking in vineyards and making wine rather than hobnobbing with the rich and famous. Although early days, it seems this dynamic between Ricciardo and Munro works well, albeit in the bizarre twilight of a Covid-distanced world. It will be interesting to see whether St Hugo and DR3 (the 3 is named after Ricciardo’s car number) can build something for the long term. All the ingredients are there including youth, energy and enthusiasm.
The St Hugo brand, named after Hugo Gramp a third-generation winemaker and leading wine industry figure who died in the 1938 Kyeema air disaster – is broadly based on vineyard sites in Coonawarra, the nearby but more obscure Wrattonbully and the Barossa. The brand identity has gone through its own journey. The original 1980 Orlando St Hugo Cabernet Sauvignon was a great hit when it was first released. The vineyard provenance of the 2018 St Hugo DR3 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon (95 points) is similar, but the final blend, already bottled before the partnership began, was always destined for a special release. The 2020 St Hugo DR3 South Australian Shiraz (94 points) is a pure Munro/Ricciardo co-blend. The work behind the wine is a good example of building connections. Sample wines and pipettes were sent to Riccardo (who was based in California at the time) to establish trial blends. The resulting shiraz highlights a combination of smart sourcing, good mentorship and Ricciardo’s preference for fruit density and torque.
A healthy lifestyle does not necessarily mean abstention. Increasingly people are drinking low or no alcohol drinks during the week and enjoying wine or spirits at weekends. Ricciardo’s endorsement of Heineken 0.0 – with ‘Ricciardo.0’ on a hoarding over the start/finishing line at Albert Park – and the St Hugo DR3 collaboration shows that wine and zero-alcohol beverages can co-exist. This is further exemplified by Dan Murphy’s recent pop-up bar, Zero%.
In the end, it is all about personal responsibility and moderation. In 2019, Formula One committed to being carbon zero by 2030 and the wine industry is working hard to achieve similar goals. The fastest winemaker in the world could become a leading ambassador for environmental sustainability, the cause of wine and moderate consumption. His limited release glass-blown Shoey decanter also promises to become a highly collectible piece of modern Australiana.