Dwyane Wade has Wade Cellars, Carmelo Anthony has a Châteauneuf-du-Pape and now James Harden has a California Cabernet Sauvignon. The Sixers star is the latest in the NBA to dabble in the wine business, launching a label that is being marketed as “an affordable way to drink like a player.”
As a misfit Sixers fan, I was instantly swayed. I bought a box of the taxi-sauv for special occasions and at the perfect time too – the bottles, available only online, are sold out for now.
The 2021 vintage sells for under $20 a bottle before shipping – that’s four citywide promotions at Bob and Barbara’s per Harden bottle, but still manageable. Wine pricing shouldn’t be exclusive, according to an editor’s note shared on Vivino, the online marketplace that carries Harden’s collaboration with Jam Shed.
Loved ones tried to get me to moderate my expectations for the wine like they do with the Sixers. Wine can be bad, they said! But there is no reasoning with the Sixers optimists. This is team season and Harden’s wine will flow from every glass on Broad Street as we stage the long-awaited victory parade.
Also, hoopers know wine. The relationship between the NBA stars and vino has gained coverage on ESPN and Wine Spectator since a 2015 photo of LeBron James, Wade, Chris Paul and Camelo Anthony drinking wine while on vacation went viral. The photo spiced up a dash of freshness in the wine industry and piqued the interest of different demographics.
“The wine business has been absolutely very unique both on the production side and I would say also on the consumption side in terms of who is marketed to,” said Dave Rudman, executive director of the nonprofit. Wine & Spirit Education Trust Americas.
Rudman said the past industry efforts to market to broader and more diverse audiences have not gone well. Just by drinking and enjoying wine so publicly, NBA stars have changed the perception of who wine is, Rudman said. It’s true that the average fan probably can’t have hundreds of bottles of their favorite wine in storage, like former Sixer Jimmy Butler.
Still, Wade partnered with a famous Napa Valley winery in 2014 and spoke candidly about efforts to “change the common misconception of wine as pretentious.”
Harden declared similar goals.
“I have always seen the wine industry as a closed-door environment… my goal is to make a high quality product that can be enjoyed by the masses at a reasonable price,” Harden said in a statement.
I put his commitment to the test.
For starters, Harden Cabernet Sauvignon comes with fun labels, not a surprise for a man known for his fashion sense. A silhouette of his face and iconic beard are unmistakable and filled with a playful red and blue floral pattern. Overall, the bottle looks fun.
As for the real wine, it wasn’t the worst – I bullied several Inquirer reporters into trying it with me – and it was generally well received at dinners where I hit it with a bottle. It’s as smooth as it claims to be, unsurprisingly, and in that sense, Harden has managed to make an affordable wine.
At 13.5% alcohol by volume, the wine doesn’t feel thick or heavy when yawning.
I have ripe black cherries and light oak with medium tannin and a smooth, short finish. You can definitely drink this on Broad Street with or without a sandwich.
But it’s worth?
There are equally drinkable wines at cheaper prices if you choose to miss the fun label, but I enjoyed going to parties and explaining my beard wine. I would definitely buy another bottle if it was available at my local fine wine and spirits store.
And that’s a possibility, according to the Pennsylvania Board of Beverage Control.
“We’re always looking for new and exciting products that we think our customers will enjoy,” said Shawn Kelly, a spokesperson for PLCB.