Wednesday Wines – Episode 174 – Idris Elba’s superb celeb wines

Porte Noire

Most people are a little suspicious of celebrities moving into fields other than their own to boost their bank balances.  The assumption of expertise and great taste in multiple fields often seems like a bridge too far.  We see it all the time, and while some brands fail, others explode, catapulting famous actors, sporting stars, and musicians (these three groups seem to exploit celeb products most successfully) into different stratas of wealth.  Recent reports of Dwayne Johnson’s (The Rock) adventures in tequila with his Teremana brand make George Clooney’s $1bn Casamigos venture look rather soft!

The wine world is not immune from celebs dabbling in their own creations.  While it is always more interesting, to me at least, when they actually own vineyards and oversee production, as opposed to simply adding their logo to wines they have little relationship with, I only ever judge the wine and not the label, so I am occasionally impressed by the winemaking, value, and story whether or not it has received the blessing of a notable individual. 

I recently tasted two wines from the Porte Noir label, owned by actor (and musician) Idris Elba. I am a fan of his celluloid exploits, so I must admit I was crossing my fingers that these two wines, from opposite ends of France, would at least be palatable.  Better still, if they were reasonably priced and accurate.

It is with great pleasure that I can wholeheartedly support both wines, not least because they taste superb. In addition, they are remarkably well-priced for their styles, look great, and appear to demonstrate, whether true or not, that Idris is a man of vinous sophistication.

I am fortunate to write only about wines that I enjoy, as opposed to being asked to critique those bottles that I do not, and so rather than taking a sideswipe at various celebs who have failed to make the grade, I focus on highlighting those who have succeeded, and Mr Elba’s pair of wines sit atop this discreet pile of bottles in 2023.

NV Petite Porte, Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru, Champagne, France (£45.60, www.portenoire.co.uk).

This wine is made by Champagne Sanger, and while I have not heard of this producer before, they clearly know what they are doing because this is a laser-sighted, mineral-soaked, delightfully chalky and teasing Chardonnay with a pure and superbly balanced palate.  The finish is clean and tangy, and while spending £45 on a bottle of wine is certainly not an everyday experience, if you are seeking a Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs with poise and precision, you are unlikely to find anything of this quality below £70. I cannot recommend it enough and the discreet mention that it was ‘selected’ by Mr Elba, is classy and accurate and it doesn’t pretend that he was knee-deep in ferments.  18/20 (Drink now – 2028)

2021 Porte Noire, Cru Classe Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France (£29.80, www.portenoire.co.uk).

Described as a collaboration between Idris and the Fayard Family of Château Sainte Marguerite, this is a silky, balanced and calm rosé with a nice pinch of acidity on the finish that manages to bring the fruit to a neat ‘full stop’ on the palate.  Sainte Marguerite is a well-respected estate, and this wine neatly treads the boards between complex aperitif status and main course duties, given it has enough weight on the mid-palate to tackle trickier dishes.  It is not muscular or over-extracted and this means that this is a fine effort and a second wine that promises much and delivers with aplomb.   17.5/20 (Drink now – 2024)