If ever there was a dream job, Andrew Roper from Wines to the Stars has got it. If your idea of #wine nirvana is hanging out backstage with the world’s biggest musical artists while drinking the rarest and most expensive wines ever produced… Fuck it – you’re gonna hate this guy! 🙂
Drew, Wine Wanker: What does your job entail?
Andrew Roper, Wines to the Stars: Taking care of touring artists and celebrities with their wines, spirits and special beverage requirements whilst on tour in Australia, NZ & through Asia, USA and Europe. My business looks after them with the design of their backstage ‘Green Rooms’ at venues they perform, as well as on their show-free days with private winery visitations and other wine and spirit related meals and events. We also take care of them with making sure they meet the wine people of Australia/NZ backstage to share their respective passions of wine and music/arts. We organise everything, from security, transport, private tastings and ongoing personal supply and wine cellar management to their home cellars. I like to call our services more a ‘Liquor Concierge’ rather than a Sommelier.
Drew: Who are some of the celebrities you’ve worked with
Andrew: Where do I start! Madonna & band, AC/DC, One Direction, The Eagles, The Rolling Stones, Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, Billy Joel, Paul Stanley (KISS), Matthew Bellamy (Muse), Axl Rose and Frank Ferrer (GnR), The Beach Boys, Vivian Campbell & Rick Allen (Def Leppard), Jack White, Michael Schumacher, Marat Safin, Bryan Ferry, Robert Plant, Carlos Santana, Madness, Ben Harper, Disturbed, Culture Club, Florence and the Machine, Nana Mouskouri, Drake,…shall I keep going?
Drew: Who has the most educated/enviable palate when it comes to wine – what kind of wines
Andrew: In my 20+ years of looking after artists, Paul Stanley has by far the best palate I’ve encountered and loves the big Aussie Shiraz as well as the finer Cabernets from Mount Mary and Yarra Yering. Birks Wendouree of Clare Cabernet Malbec from 1998 was also something he loved. When I sent some Giaconda Chardonnay in an order to try out, his comment was “simply the best Chardonnay I’ve had”. He also wanted the Parawa Ingalalla which he fell in love with.
The man with a fantastic wine nose also is Courtney Taylor-Taylor of the Dandy Warhol’,s who is super particular about what wines are backstage after show. The more Burgundian French in style the better for him. Although I blew him away with some 1990/94 & 2000 , which he had never tasted anything like before. There are long term wine friends like Michael Schumacher (who sadly had) an amazing understanding of wines and loved the Germanic named Henschke Wines I introduced him to every time he was in Australia. Matthew Bellamy of band MUSE knows his stuff and loved the wines from Samuel’s Gorge, Torbreck, the DeBortoli Noble One. Josh Homme, Troy Van Leeuwen and Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age absolutely love coming down-under to drink with me, they loved this tour the wines from Villa Maria (Reserve Range) I organised for them backstage in Auckland, then we had a great expose of the Pewter and UNO range of Semillons, Shiraz and Shiraz Pinots from Tempus Two (Hunter Valley).
My fave however is a great mate and wine lover named Burton C Bell of industrial metal band Fear Factory, who I always take time between shows to tour the wine regions with and show our best to; he loves the wines from Yarra Yering mostly. The guys from rock band Disturbed are also right on the ball with wines they know and love, in fact David, Dan, John & Mike all really know and love their wines and loved the Australian showcase I provided on their last tour. They voted Rusden Sandscrub Shiraz as the wine of tour. Eric Burdon surprised me with his class and knowledge of wine selections, and also fell in love with some of the wines from Soumah (Yarra Valley) and Elderton Wines (Barossa Valley) we provided backstage on his last tour.
Canadian band The Tea Party are always up for a wine party after show and really love the reds from Devils Lair, as well as the Rusden Grenache on their last Australian tour with the MSO. They fell in love with the wines from Tellurian Estate (Heathcote) and Moore’s Hill Pinot Noir from Tasmania.
Alicia Moore (Pink) loves a wine we import just for her called La Crema Chardonnay from Russian River, CA, but we managed to get her into some Mollydooker wines thanks to their artistic labels. She still orders La Crema though when touring here.
Drew: When in Australia, do international celebrities want to experience the local wines and do they know what to ask for or do they rely on your recommendation
Andrew: When in Australia & NZ, most of the artists rely on my wine judgement and I always conduct a bit of wine & spirit investigations on each artist I have not looked after beforehand. I try my very best to ensure that all on tour get to taste the wines from the regions they are performing close to, for example; when in Perth we will bring them our discoveries from boutique producers from Western Australia, mainly those from Margaret River, Swan Valley, Pemberton or Mount Barker regions.
[For Andrew’s top Australian wine recommendations click here]
Drew: What are the most expensive requests you’ve fielded and who was requesting these wines
Andrew: I get the obvious request for the Iconic’s of Australia as Penfolds Grange, Henschke Hill of Grace and maybe a bit for the Torbreck Laird, but I also have had some amazing almost mystical wines to chase up like the Parawa Estate “Ingalalla” which is, I may add Australia’s top ranked wine by many of the top critics (who have been lucky and tasted it). It cant be brought just anywhere either, you have to know where to strike it! and at A$1300.00 plus for .750mls, it sure is a wine to be reckoned with!
I introduced the singer of metal band Tool to Penfolds as well as Henschke on a tour, and I wish I didn’t to be honest. I lost him as a client due to him going direct and them giving him free Grange & Hill of Grace instead of the other option of buying it through me, and with the now the Chief Winemaker becoming his ‘bestie’ makes life hard to compete with.. ha-ha.
I do however also get the particular wine superstar drinker who only wants their fave wine of the moment and this can be anything from Ch.Petrus, even d’Yquem from early 1900’s, Le Pin, Barolo from Gaja, Giuseppe Quintarelli (RIP), Giacomo Conterno or the great Napa Cabernets Stags Leap, Caymus, Harlan Estate, Hundred Acre, Bryant Family and JJ Cohn’s Scarecrow is something I treasure as special orders to date. I always order more so I can add the odd extra bottle to my cellar! As for Champagnes, well the normal bling bottles such as Cristal, Krug, and the Vintage Doms still shine as the most requested bubbles I am requested for. I love putting up a great Aussie Sparkling like Arras Grand Vintage or Rose as a comparison for them though, which gets a few interesting remarks, especially when they often taste better!
Drew: How much of the wine is actually drunk – or is it left behind for the crew to drink after the band has left?
Andrew: Most of the wines I bring are drunk, I have learned over the years to always bring a boot full of back up’s and most times I do need to go to the car again. Their guests drink more though, as they feel like it’s a ‘free for all’, so why not. I get really involved with the feel of the aftershow and enjoy explaining the wines as I pour. Making wine fun is really what it is all about, long gone are the days where wine was treated as an old man’s drink. People are genuinely respectful just to learn something from what I pour them.
Drew: Any other unusual requests with wine service – special glasses, a sommelier to pour, wine fridges etc?
Andrew: Over the years of backstage service of wines, I learned early on that Riedels or Plumm and some other popular brands were just not right for the backstage party environment – too many breakages! I landed with Luigi Bormioli crystal and they seriously are the best you can get as far as shape, crystal quality and durability. Don’t think about getting anything else seriously.
I have many famous clients that will still demand “No Screw’d Wine please” (screw’d meaning screw capped). Paul Stanley has a point when he says, if i want a soda pop wine, I will go to my 7/11 mate, so don’t send me any please!
Drew: What’s the Champagne of choice for some of the world’s top celebrities when on tour? What’s your favourite?
Andrew: Dom Perignon, Cristal and Moet are what I see on most rider lists
My fave Champagne has always been from the House of Krug, particular vintage of 1998 or 1980 which I still have a case or two of each. Their Clos du Mesnil from 1995 is absolutely superb. I’ve also a secret bottle of the Clos du Mesnil from 1982 I am saving for a great day! Also a Jeroboam of 1995 Dom sits proudly in my office in a temperature controlled display case that one day I may open if the right occasion arrives.
I do have a real passion however for our Sparkling Shiraz and always give the after party a special tasting of our most hidden wine. They all love it so much and as the British bands say, “Sparkling Alcoholic Ribena” WOW!!!
It is such a unique wine, that I have several projects on the go with producing Sparkling Shiraz for bands.. crazy but true!
Drew: What’s your fave go to shop/auction house to buy the best wines
Andrew: I buy only through my long term trusted sources, or wineries directly. I have had far too many wines from the popular auction sites turn awful on me and with no way to erase the disappointment of the great occasion turning sour.
It really has affected the way I buy wine, especially super premium wines. I was the winner of a so called great vintage Grange the last time I purchased unseen at an online auction and it was the worst $4,000 I ever spent in my life!
My favourite shop in Melbourne to wander around and lose myself in their selection of great wines and imported Rum is Nick’s Wine at Doncaster. Great guys, great wines and always back their sale with a quality return policy if needed. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but the big wine super market chains to me are more interested in the turning over cases rather than the quality of service and knowledge base.
If we all purchased on the basis of cheaper pricing we are doomed!
If you’re a celebrity and you need Andrew’s services, you can contact him at winestothestars.com