James Harden is the latest NBA player to try to make wine accessible. I put it to the test.
For the price of four citywides with tip, you can get the Beard’s new wine.
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 dabble in the wine business, launching a label being marketed as “an affordable way to drink like a baller.”
As a maladjusted Sixers fan, I was instantly influenced. I bought a case of the cab-sauv for special occasions and at the perfect time, too — the bottles, only available online, have sold out for now.
The 2021 vintage retails under $20 a bottle before shipping — that’s four citywide specials at Bob and Barbara’s per Harden bottle but still manageable. The wine’s price point is not supposed to be exclusive, according to an editor’s note shared on Vivino, the online marketplace carrying the Harden collaboration with Jam Shed.
Loved ones tried to get me to 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 Sixers optimists. This is the team’s season and Harden’s wine will flow from every cup on Broad Street when we hold the long-awaited victory parade.
Besides, hoopers know wine. The relationship between NBA stars and vino has garnered coverage in 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 photo peppered a hint of cool on the wine industry and piqued the interest of different demographics.
“The business of wine has absolutely been very exclusive both on the production side and I would say also on sort of the consumption side in terms of who it is marketed to,” said Dave Rudman, executive director of nonprofit Wine & Spirit Education Trust Americas.
Rudman said past industry efforts to market to broader and more diverse audiences weren’t good. Just by drinking and appreciating wine so publicly, NBA stars have changed the perception of who wine is for, said Rudman. Granted, the average fan probably can’t have hundreds of bottles of their favorite wine in storage like former Sixer Jimmy Butler.
Still, Wade partnered with a famous Napa Valley winery in 2014 and has been outspoken about efforts to “change the common misconception of wine as pretentious.”
Harden has stated similar goals.
“I have always seen the wine industry as a closed-door environment…my goal is to make 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, the Harden cabernet sauvignon comes with fun labeling, not a surprise for a man known for his fashion sense. A silhouette of his face and iconic beard are unmistakable and filled in with a fun red and blue floral pattern. Overall, the bottle looks fun.
As for the actual wine, it wasn’t the worst — I bullied several Inquirer reporters into trying it with me — and was generally well-received at dinners I crashed with a bottle. It’s as smooth as it claims to be with no surprises and in that sense, Harden succeeded in making an accessible wine.
At 13.5% alcohol by volume, the wine doesn’t feel thick or heavy when swishing in your mouth.
I got ripe black cherries and slight oak with medium tannin, and a smooth, short finish. You could definitely drink this on Broad Street with or without a hoagie.
But is it worth it?
There are similarly drinkable wines at cheaper price points if you choose to lose the fun label, but I for one enjoyed going to parties and explaining my beard wine. I’d definitely buy another bottle if it were available at my local Fine Wines and Good Spirits store.
And that’s a possibility, according to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
“We are always looking for new and interesting products we think our customers would enjoy,” said PLCB spokesperson Shawn Kelly.