Sir Ian Botham to launch an English sparkling wine

England Cricket legend Sir Ian Botham is to launch an English sparkling next year as part of a new wine range carrying his name, the drinks business can exclusively reveal.

Botham has been open about his love of wine for a long time. Picture source: Wikipedia 2013

The new range will comprise three tiers, with the priciest branded ‘Sir Ian Botham’, and featuring a collection of still wines from Australia and New Zealand, along with one fizz, which will come from England – although the producer has yet to be chosen.

News that the famous British cricketer is to put his name to a range of wines came from Paul Schaafsma, new CEO at Broadland Wineries, who has agreed a partnership between the UK wine importer and Sir Ian Botham.

Having told db last month that the most expensive tier will include a Chardonnay from Margaret River, a Pinot Noir from Central Otago, and a Pinot Gris from New Zealand, along with a Shiraz from the Barossa and possibly a Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra, Schaafsma then confirmed that Botham would also be putting his name to an English sparkling wine too – and said that all these wines will be officially unveiled at the London Wine Fair in May 2018.

With, as yet, no celebrity involvement in the English wine scene, this is a significant development for the fast-growing English fizz industry, which is emerging as a globally recognised quality player in the competitive world for traditional method sparkling, led, of course, by Champagne.

The focus on wines from New Zealand and Australia under the brand Sir Ian Botham is a consequence of the sportsman’s many years spent touring these countries during his glittering cricketing career, as well as his preference for wines from the New World.

Indeed, Botham, who has for a long time been open about his love of wine, already has a business interest in the Australian wine trade, as part owner of the Botham Merrill Willis label, which sees cricketers Botham and Bob Willis join forces with McLaren Vale winemaker Geoff Merrill.

While, most recently, Botham was “a cricket ambassador” for the Hardys brand, as part of the Australian wine brand’s sponsorship of the English cricket team – although this tie-up was terminated at the start of this year.

Nevertheless, it was his association with Hardys, a winery owned by Accolade Wines, where Schaafsma previously worked, holding the role CEO, that brought the two personalities together.

“We’ve been mates for a while,” said Schaafsma.

Continuing, he said, “Sir Ian is astute on wine, and he’s been around the world of wine for the last 40 years, and this year he asked me to source a range of wines from the producers he loves, using the name Sir Ian Botham for a top tier, costing between £15-20.”

Beneath this will be two further levels, with a mid-tier called ‘The Botham Series’, comprising a Provençal rosé, a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, and an Argentine Malbec, which will retail for £8-10, all of which will be sourced by Schaafsma with Botham’s approval.

Coming later, with no launch date yet to be agreed, with be an entry-level range called ‘Beefy’ – to use Botham’s sporting nickname – which will comprise a range “at commercial price points”, said Schaafsma.

Although the top two tiers will be launched at the London Wine Fair next year, Schaafsma said that he planned to take the Botham wine brand “all over the world”, recording the sportsman’s global fame, particularly in the great cricketing nations of Australia, South Africa, India, as well as of course the UK.

The brand will be jointly owned by Botham and Broadland, with Sir Ian acting as the global ambassador for the wines.

“Botham has mass appeal and he can have a proper grown-up conversation about wine; I think it’s a goer – I am pumped about this,” said Schaafsma.

Stressing Botham’s high level of involvement in the project, Schaafsma said that the cricketer would “sign off all the wines”.

In terms of the look, Schaafsma described the labelling as “classic”, with upmarket design cues such a white, heavy paper stock, embossing, and a bottle with a deep punt, and he confirmed that the range would not carry a picture of Sir Ian.

When asked about the potential for success for celebrity wine brands, Schaafsma said that Graham Norton’s Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough – which Schaafsma is involved with as a director for its producer Invivo Wines – was one of the fastest growing in the world.

He then stated, “What’s missing in wine brands is credibility and awareness and this [new brand] will have both – people really know Botham and he is a wine guy.”

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