I didn’t really know what a podcast was when my producer Richard Hemming first suggested ‘A Glass With…’ as a way of interviewing celebrities. When I realised it’s effectively radio-ondemand I agreed it was a great way to get celebrities to talk about their favourite drinks – especially as many of them own vineyards. The process is simple: I visit the celebrity, who opens a bottle of their favourite tipple, which we savour together while chatting about their lives. I also bring a bottle I think they’ll like and which I leave for them to drink at their leisure. On these pages are some of the highlights from those 30-plus podcast chats with stars of stage and screen. And I’ve added something extra – a recommendation at the bottom to help you drink like the celebs but at high-street prices.
1. Sting and Trudie Styler
Sting and Trudie are in jubilant form. ‘It’s our 26th anniversary,’ Sting says. When it comes to wine, Trudie still remembers the first tipple the couple drank: Mateus Rosé. ‘With spag bol,’ Sting adds. Today their Italian home and wine estate Il Palagio is producing impressive quality, due, Sting says, to years of investment and hard work. ‘I think one of the most important elements in wine is surprise. A good wine has a narrative – a beginning, a middle and an end. Storytelling and empathy are part of what I do, and so the wine is woven in with that.’ As I’m sipping their Sister Moon 2015, it’s clear there’s a big connection for both of them with nature. For Sting, the connection between wine and music is even closer. ‘My studio is above the cellar and I’m sure the music trickles down to the casks.’
Sting and Trudie are in jubilant form. ‘It’s our 26th anniversary,’ Sting says. When it comes to wine, Trudie still remembers the first tipple the couple drank: Mateus Rosé
Sting and Trudie’s bottle Il Palagio, Sister Moon 2015 IGT Toscana, £29 – a splendid red that is worth its price tag.
Olly’s alternative If you’re after a Chianti from down the road for under a tenner, The Wine Society offers The Society’s Chianti Rufina 2016 (12.5%) for £8.95.
2. Mick Hucknall
‘I was born in Manchester, so most of my life I drank beer – until I became famous and started drinking champagne. I was into fizz before I became famous, but it was dry cider.’ The Simply Red frontman has come a long way since then, but his down-to-earth approach to wine is still refreshing. For over a decade, Mick owned a Sicilian estate and vineyard on the slopes of Mount Etna, Europe’s highest active volcano. Il Cantante, which appropriately translates as The Singer, was the glorious 18th-century property he would escape to throughout the year, and he has fond memories of his time there. ‘What was exciting was that it’s an extraordinary tradition that goes back to Ancient Greece.’ His newly acquired love of wine brought him together with an iconic set, including the late Omar Sharif, who told him: ‘People say wine is bad for you. I drink one bottle a day and it’s very good for me!’ As much as he loves Italian wine for its flavour and rich diversity, Mick doesn’t have a favourite. ‘My passion is tasting wines from all over the world and just experiencing them. I love the idea of finding a six-quid bottle and it’s like – wow, this is fantastic!’
‘I was born in Manchester, so most of my life I drank beer – until I became famous and started drinking champagne’
Mick’s bottle Mick’s Roberto Voerzio, La Serra 1999 Barolo (£143), made from the Nebbiolo grape in Italy.
Olly’s alternative The lesser known Greek grape Xinomavro has similar flavours to Nebbiolo, so try Thymiopoulos Naoussa Jeunes Vignes de Xinomavro 2017 (13%), from thewinesociety.com for just £10.95.
3. Sam Neill
Sam’s mellifluous tones hide a surprising fact: as a child he used to stutter. Leaving Ireland as a boy, ill health cast him into isolation on a ship bound for the Antipodes. These days, Sam’s wine farm Two Paddocks in New Zealand’s South Island has cattle, sheep and a vineyard. ‘I like to grow wine in a healthy environment. I think wine should be healthy and we should be healthy, those of us who work among those vines.’ For such a laid-back character, he picked the trickiest of grapes to grow – Pinot Noir – after he bought a disappointing Pinot from France. ‘I was going to some posh friends for dinner, and I thought I’d get a really good bottle of Burgundy. It cost 98 quid. Our entry-level wine would be better than that.’
For such a laid-back character, Sam Neill picked the trickiest of grapes to grow – Pinot Noir – after he bought a disappointing Pinot from France
Sam’s bottle Sam opened The Fusilier 2016, £40, named after his father Major Dermot Neill, who served in the Royal Irish Fusiliers for nearly 20 years.
Olly’s alternative For bargain Pinot, German Spätburgunder is the same grape. M&S has a scrumptious Palataia Pinot Noir 2017 (13%) for £9.
4. Sir Michael Parkinson
Sir Michael’s first impressions of wine were less than encouraging. ‘I remember drinking awful wine in Yates’s Wine Lodge, which would scrape the enamel off your teeth. I didn’t develop a taste for wine until I came down to London.’ Working in newspapers, he was initially a fish out of water. ‘The first time I had champagne, I’d just joined the Daily Express and walked into El Vino on Fleet Street. I felt a bit lost because I didn’t know anybody. And this awful man called Frank The Florid Vintner, terrible snob, said, “What will you be having?” And I said ‘Pint of bitter’, and he started laughing. Then a voice from behind me said, “My friend will have a glass of champagne with me.” It was Cyril Aynsley, a doyenne of the reporting staff, who began Parky’s education in wine. Later, when Sir Michael started moving with the celebrity set, he would often dine with Michael Winner. ‘And that was an ordeal, because the worst thing you could do was choose the bottle of wine. You just couldn’t please him!’
Sir Michael’s first impressions of wine were less than encouraging. ‘I remember drinking awful wine in Yates’s Wine Lodge, which would scrape the enamel off your teeth. I didn’t develop a taste for wine until I came down to London’
Parky’s plonk Escarpment Pinot Noir 2014 Martinborough, £26.
Olly’s alternative Try Asda Extra Special Marlborough Pinot Noir 2016 (13.5%) for £10 – it’s absolutely brilliant.
5. Alex Jones
As Alex pours me a cool glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc she chats away as though The One Show is being broadcast from her kitchen. ‘My husband is a New Zealander, but even before he came along, Mum and Dad, my sister and I were big fans of New Zealand – we travelled there in 2005 and saw a lot of the vineyards.’ Her husband Charlie ‘started off working as a chef – he does all the cooking though; it’s the reason I married him because otherwise I would starve.’ At home, with their son Teddy, Alex and Charlie try to stock up on good quality and investment wine but it never stays in the house for long. ‘We keep drinking it!’
Alex Jones: ‘My husband is a New Zealander, but even before he came along, Mum and Dad, my sister and I were big fans of New Zealand – we saw a lot of the vineyards’
Alex’s bottle Tinpot Hut Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Marlborough, £11.
Olly’s alternative I’d buy Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (13%) for £17.99 in Majestic. It’s about as good as New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc gets.
6. Clare Balding
The sports presenter is a massive wine fan – particularly white wine. ‘Red wine tends to give me a dry mouth and a headache the next day, although that may be quantity rather than quality,’ she says. But don’t ever offer to buy her a pint of beer. ‘I have people telling me I will like it this time and I really don’t. I hate it. Tastes like urine, it really does.’ Italy has been Clare’s go-to country for wine, but a recent visit to New Zealand changed her view.
‘Red wine tends to give me a dry mouth and a headache the next day, although that may be quantity rather than quality,’ Clare Balding says
Clare’s bottle Louis Jadot, Les Narvaux 2012 Meursault, £39 – a lovely Chardonnay from Burgundy.
Olly’s alternative Try Aldi’s Exquisite Collection Macon Villages 2018 (12.5%), £6.99.
It wasn’t always wine in Pink’s glass: ‘I hated wine growing up,’ says the US singer-songwriter. Thankfully, she’s since found an endless fascination with it. ‘That’s what’s great about wine for me. I’ve been drinking wine for 15 years and I know nothing.’ Those are modest words from the artist, considering she’s owned her own vineyard in Barbara County, California, since 2013. She also obtained a qualification from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) soon after. ‘It’s been a work in progress for years,’ she says. ‘It’s my dirty little secret. We started out with 18 acres – now we’ve got 25.’ One of her favourite tasks is pruning the vines. ‘I got my brand-new Beck album, I put my earphones in and I spent days pruning. It’s my favourite thing to do.’
One of Pink’s favourite tasks is pruning the vines. ‘I got my brand-new Beck album, I put my earphones in and I spent days pruning. It’s my favourite thing to do.’
Pink’s bottle Pink brought a 2010 Pontet-Canet (nearly £200 a bottle – ‘if I was Mariah Carey I’d bathe in it’), which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Olly’s alternative For a bargain drop from the same region, try Haut-Vignoble Bordeaux 2017 (13%) for £7 from M&S.
8. Ian Rankin
Just like John Rebus, the detective character he created, Ian Rankin loves the pub – and these days a glass of wine. He even worked in Bordeaux harvesting grapes during the legendary 1982 vintage. ‘We were celebrating the end of the harvest so we got all the vines and made them into little wreaths around our heads. And then we got hammered.’ He was meant to feed the grape skins to the two pigs the farm owned, but feeling jaded left it to the next day when the pulp had begun fermenting. The pigs got drunk and one of them died. (Ian was in a band in his youth called The Dancing Pigs). More recently he’s established the Exclusive Gentlemen’s Wine Group with fellow writer and neighbour Alexander McCall Smith, where members have to try to identify the different wines.
Just like John Rebus, the detective character he created, Ian Rankin loves the pub – and these days a glass of wine
Ian’s bottle Château Brandeau 2010 Côtes de Castillon, £11, from the place where he worked in 1982.
Olly’s alternative Tesco Finest Medoc 2016 (13%) is a winner for £9. e To hear Olly Smith’s ‘A Glass With…’ podcast, see aglasswith.com