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 get into the wine business, launching a label marketed as “an affordable way to drink like a baller.”
As a misfit Sixers fan, I was immediately swayed. I bought a case of cab-sauv for special occasions and at the perfect time too – the bottles, which are only available online, have sold out at the moment.
The 2021 vintage sells for less than $20 a bottle before shipping — that’s four citywide promotions at Bob and Barbara per Harden bottle, but still manageable. The wine price isn’t meant to be exclusive, according to an editor’s note shared on Vivino, the online marketplace featuring Harden’s collaboration with Jam Shed.
My relatives tried to make me temper my expectations for the wine like they do with the Sixers. The wine could be bad, they said! But there’s no reasoning with the Sixers’ optimists. It’s team season and Harden’s wine will be flowing from every Broad Street cup when we stage the long-awaited Victory Parade.
Besides, hoopers know wine. The relationship between NBA stars and vino has been covered by 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 picture sprinkled a dash of freshness on the wine industry and piqued the interest of different demographics.
“The wine business has been absolutely very exclusive both on the production side and I would say also on the consumption side in terms of recipients,” said Dave Rudman, executive director of the nonprofit. Wine & Spirit Education Trust Americas.
Rudman said the past industry efforts to market to larger, more diverse audiences were not good. Just by drinking and enjoying wine so publicly, NBA stars have changed the perception of who wine is, Rudman said. Admittedly, the average fan probably can’t have hundreds of bottles of their favorite wine in stock like former Sixer Jimmy Butler.
Still, Wade partnered with a famous Napa Valley winery in 2014 and was candid about efforts to “change the common misconception that wine is pretentious.”
Harden stated similar goals.
“I have always viewed the wine industry as a closed-door environment…my goal is to produce 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 some fun labeling, which comes as no surprise to a man known for his fashion sense. A silhouette of his face and his signature beard are unmistakable and filled with a fun red and blue floral pattern. Overall the bottle looks fun.
As for the wine itself, it wasn’t the worst – I bullied several Inquirer reporters into trying it with me – and it was generally well received at the dinner parties I crushed with a bottle. It’s as smooth as it claims, unsurprisingly, and in that sense Harden has managed to make an approachable wine.
At 13.5% alcohol by volume, the wine does not feel thick or heavy when swirled in the mouth.
I got ripe black cherries and light oak with medium tannins and a sweet, short finish. You can certainly drink it on Broad Street with or without a hoagie.
But is it worth it?
There are similar drinking wines at cheaper prices if you choose to lose the fun tag, but I personally 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 liquor store.
And that’s a possibility, according to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
“We are always on the lookout for exciting new products that we believe our customers will enjoy,” said PLCB spokesperson Shawn Kelly.