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FOOD & DRINK

Where in France do celebrities own vineyards?

George Lucas, Leonardo DiCaprio, John Malkovich, Brad Pitt, Kylie Minogue, George Clooney and Tony Parker have all invested in French vineyards in the same corner of the country.

Increasing numbers of foreign celebrities are investing in French vineyards.
Increasing numbers of foreign celebrities are investing in French vineyards. (Photo by FRANCOIS NASCIMBENI / AFP)

Franco-American former basketball star and four-time NBA champion, Tony Parker, is the latest celebrity to invest in French vineyards in the Var département of southeastern France. 

He has become a partner in the domaine de vin du Château La Mascaronne – which has some 60 hectares of vineyards. Parker has also launched himself into a venture with Champagne Jeeper – a champagne producing operation near Reims. 

In a statement, the four-time NBA winner said he was committed to “taking these exceptional wines and Champagnes to the next level”. 

Parker is far from the only celebrity to invest in French viticulture. Here is a selection of the others: 

  • George Lucas

George Lucas, the writer and director of the original Star Wars films, owns the Château Margüi vineyards in the Var, producing red, white and rosé wines over some 15 hectares.

He bought the site in 2017 for some €9.5 million. He has since spent a further €15 million in modernising the cellars and building a hotel at the site. 

Château Margüi belongs to a wider network known as Skywalker Vineyards. 

  • Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie bought the Château Miraval in the Var in 2008 – as well as the 500 hectares of land, including 50 hectares of vineyards, surrounding it. The cost was estimated at about €25 million. 

The site is primarily known for its rosé production. 

The estate made some €46 million in profits in 2021. Since the joint purchase, the pair have divorced and Le Parisien reports that Jolie sold her 40 percent stake to a Luxembourgish spirits manufacturer majority-owned by a Russian oligarch. 

  • George Clooney

George Clooney became the official owner of the 425-acre Domaine du Canadel wine estate, in the Var, in July 2021. 

The property is a twenty minute from George Lucas’ estate and half an hour to the one owned by Brad Pitt. 

One of the Canadel wines, a red known as Altum, was awarded a prestigious gold medal award at the salon de l’agriculture 2022. 

  • Kylie Minogue 

Australian singer Kylie Minogue sells French-produced wines, simply branded ‘Kylie Minogue’ – the best known of which is a Côtes-de-Provence. She is thought to have sold more than 2.3 million bottles since May 2020. 

Minogue was awarded one of the highest cultural honours in France, the Chevalier Dans L’ordre Des Arts et Des Lettres, in 2008.

More recently, in 2021, she signed a partnership with the château Sainte-Roseline aux Arcs-sur-Argens, in the Var, to produce and sell even more rosé. 

  • Leonardo DiCaprio 

Oscar-winning actor-turned-environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio bought a minority stake in the Champagne house, Telmont, in Damery, northeastern France. 

DiCaprio said he was attracted by the ecological credentials of the operation. 

“From protecting biodiversity on its land, to using 100 percent renewable electricity, Champagne Telmont is determined to radically lower its environmental footprint, making me proud to join as an investor,” he wrote in a statement

  • John Malkovich

Hollywood star John Malkovich bought a ten hectare property near Luberon, southeast France, in the 1980s. 

In 2008 he and his wife, Nicoletta Peyran, converted half of the land into vineyards. 

By 2020, they were producing between 16,000-18,000 bottles per year, 95 percent of which were destined for the export market. 

Wine critics rate the Pinot noir produced on the estate very highly. 

  • Jay-Z

Jay-Z is one of the most influential rappers in history and has also built a staggering career as a businessman, with the 2014 purchase of the French champagne brand Armand de Brignac among his many investments. 

The star reportedly forked out close to €200 million to by the business and has been a longtime fan of the product.

“You never get old and the champagne’s always cold,” he said in the 2009 track, Young Forever

  • Cameron Diaz 

American actor-turned entrepreneur, Cameron Diaz, sells a brand of organic wine called Avaline. 

She sources red, white and rosé wines from different parts of France.

The rosé comes from Mas de Cadenet estate, which is owned by one of the oldest winemaking families in Provence. 

  • Jon Bon Jovi

Jon Bon Jovi, best known as the eponymous frontman for the American rock band, Bon Jovi, produces a wine called Hampton Water. 

The rosé bottles sell for €16 and are produced in Languedoc. 

“Hampton Water captures the art of living and conviviality common to the Hamptons and the South of France,” claims its distributor.  

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FOOD & DRINK

Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

One thing everyone can agree on is that France has a lot of cheese - but exactly how many French fromages exist?

Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

Question: I often see a quote from Charles de Gaulle talking about ‘246 different types of cheese’, but other articles say there are 600 or even 1,000 different types of cheese and some people say there are just eight types – how many different cheeses are there in France?

A great question on a subject dear to French hearts – cheese.

But it’s one that doesn’t have a simple answer.

Charles de Gaulle did indeed famously say “How can anyone govern a country with 246 different types of cheese”, but even in 1962 when he uttered the exasperated phrase, it was probably an under-estimate.

READ ALSO 7 tips for buying cheese in France

The issue is how you define ‘different’ types of cheese, and unsurprisingly France has a complicated system for designating cheeses.

Let’s start with the eight – there are indeed eight cheese ‘families’ and all of France’s many cheeses can be categorised as one of;

  • Fresh cheese, such as cottage cheese or the soft white fromage blanc
  • Soft ripened cheese, such as Camembert or Brie
  • Soft ripened cheese with a washed rind, such as l’Epoisses or Pont l’Eveque
  • Unpasturised hard cheese such as Reblochon or saint Nectaire
  • Pasturised hard cheese such as Emmental or Comté
  • Blue cheese such as Roquefort 
  • Goat’s cheese
  • Melted or mixed cheese such as Cancaillot

But there are lots of different types of, for example, goat’s cheese.

And here’s where it gets complicated, for two reasons.

The first is that new varieties of cheese are constantly being invented by enterprising cheesemakers (including some which come about by accident, such as le confiné which was created in 2020).

The second is about labelling, geography and protected status.

France operates a system known as Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC or its European equivalent AOP) to designate food products that can only be made in a certain area.

As cheese is an artisan product, quite a lot of different cheese are covered by this – for example a blue sheep’s milk cheese is only Roquefort if it’s been aged in the caves in the village of Roquefort.

There are 63 listed AOC cheeses in France, but many more varieties that don’t have this protected status.

These include generic cheese types such as BabyBel and other cheeses that are foreign in origin but made in France (such as Emmental).

But sometimes there are both AOC and non-AOC versions of a single cheese – a good example of this is Camembert.

AOC Camembert must be made in Normandy by farmers who have to abide by strict rules covering location, milk type and even what their cows eat.

Factory-produced Camembert, however, doesn’t stick to these rules and therefore doesn’t have the AOC label. Is it therefore the same cheese? They’re both called Camembert but the artisan producers of Normandy will tell you – at some length if you let them – that their product is a totally different thing to the mass-produced offering.

There are also examples of local cheeses that are made to essentially the same recipe but have different names depending on where they are produced – sometimes even being on opposite sides of the same Alpine valley is enough to make it two nominally different cheeses.

All of which is to say that guessing is difficult!

Most estimates range from between 600 to 1,600, with cheese experts generally saying there are about 1,000 different varieties. 

So bonne dégustation!

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