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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

ANALYSIS: Is France food self-sufficient?

The war in Ukraine and, in the longer term, climate change have prompted concerns about supplies and cost of food - but would France be able to produce enough to feed its population if necessary?

ANALYSIS: Is France food self-sufficient?

As food prices rise in France and elsewhere, questions over the country’s food security and self-sufficiency have been asked.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – a major exporter of wheat, corn and oil – has affected global markets, with prices for such products increasing dramatically, while sanctions imposed on Russia – the world’s biggest wheat exporter – following the invasion are also hitting prices. 

It has also prompted questions as to whether, if necessary, France could feed the 67 million people who call it home, while both the European Commission and the G7 set out plans to safeguard global food security. 

Unlike other countries, such as Switzerland, France does not have a formal policy of self sufficiency for food – though it does have a policy for energy security.

READ ALSO Why is France so obsessed with nuclear power?

“There is no risk of shortage in France because our agriculture and our agri-food sectors are strong and sovereign,” former agriculture minister Julien Denormandie said on March 16th, while acknowledging that the industry faced a number of challenges.

He pointed to the economic and social resilience plan published by ex-Prime Minister Jean Castex to protect the French economy from the the effects of the Ukraine war, and which included measures to, “secure our producers, our processors as well as our agricultural and food production from 2022.”

Food prices, as predicted, have risen, both for imports and for domestically produced goods as farmers are hit by rising costs for fuel. The agriculture industry has been among the sectors consulted and farmers have been singled out for support, in order that they will be able to minimise price rises to consumers.

In April 2020, at the height of the Covid pandemic, it was estimated that France imports about 20 percent of its food.

But France – a food exporter – could feed its entire population, according to a report by the think tank Utopies, published in April. There’s a reason the country has been referred to as the ‘bread basket of Europe’.

The study found that France currently meets 60 percent of its own food needs, but has the potential to become self-sufficient. The report said that the 26 percent of food products currently grown in France for export or incorporation into processed food could be used to cover 98 percent of France’s domestic needs, the report said.

Food processing in France, of which some 24 percent is currently exported, could cover 114 percent of the country’s needs in that sector, it added.

Of course food ‘needs’ don’t include luxury imported items like exotic fruits, chocolate and coffee, so diets would see a change in a completely self-sufficient France.

More recently, drought has also prompted short-term concerns, with French farmers worried about their harvests this year. 

France is the EU’s biggest wheat exporter, and one of the top five in the world. But hopes that French farmers would be able to offset at least some of the shortfall in the world’s supply of grain following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have been hit by the record low rainfall so far this year, which have prompted warnings of a large drop in yields.

ALSO READ ‘No region has been spared’: Why the dry weather in France is causing concern

The forecast is for a smaller than usual French wheat harvest this year. With wheat-producing states in the US such as Kansas and Oklahoma also suffering in drought conditions, a poor harvest in France this year could be particularly significant – and could lead to wheat prices rising even higher in the short term.

At the height of the pandemic, president of the Fédération nationale des syndicats d’exploitants agricoles (FNSEA) Christiane Lambert told Les Echos that there were two key pillars to ensuring food security and independence in France – the ability to produce and the ability to store. 

“No one bought French flour anymore because foreign flour was cheaper,” Lambert said. “So we produced less. But with the coronavirus crisis, it was necessary to respond to demand and therefore relaunch the production lines by running them day and night to avoid shortages.”

French agriculture was able to meet the challenge then. “We have in France a complete ecosystem which allows us to control all the links in the food chain … It must be preserved if we want to be sovereign over our food,” Lambert added.

But there would need to be a change in philosophy about food, according to Les Republicains’ senator Laurent Duplomb.

In France, “entry-level” agricultural products are mainly imported, since authorities have insisted on reorienting domestic production towards quality over quantity.

“We must also stop focusing on high-end agriculture because food sovereignty means being able to produce for everyone,” Duplomb said back in 2020. 

“The risk in a few years is to have two French consumers. The first will have the means to buy top-of-the-range French products, the second will be condemned to consume only imported products since France will no longer produce them.”

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