F1 star Daniel Ricciardo talks about making his own wine and life after the race – Robb Report
If you meet enough Australians in your life, you will eventually meet one who drinks alcohol out of their own shoe. And if you know Formula 1 star Daniel Ricciardo, you’ve already met an aficionado of so-called shoey.
The fun-loving Australian race car driver punctuated his victories (of which he has eight in the sport’s highest tier) by drinking celebratory champagne from his racing boot and cheering others on the podium to join him.
Some might be surprised that someone so versed in the dark arts of soaking up a sweaty shoe has a genuine appreciation for fine wine, but Ricciardo does. So much so that the McLaren driver has teamed up with Australian producer St. Hugo and his head winemaker Peter Munro to craft his own Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.
The collaboration, called DR3 after its F1 car number, debuted last year in Australia and sold out quickly. This year’s second edition features a 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Coonawarra wine region of South Australia as well as a 2020 Shiraz made from a blend of grapes from several growing regions Down Under. The latest wine pair dropped in Australia earlier this year with a $700 crystal decanter shaped like a racing boot, which sold out in just one week.
He has withheld some of this wine, however, with the intention of selling it in America this fall. So, as Ricciardo takes the summer break from F1 (racing does not resume until August 28), he has traveled to the United States to talk wine before the waiting list to buy a bottle in the United States. USA only opens on August 4th. And though he calls his wine collaboration a healthy distraction from the racing schedule, there’s still no avoiding the sport’s “silly season.” With the race scheduled to be halted, people around the world are filling the void with wild speculation about the behind-the-scenes moves and the teams’ riders next year. And he again found himself a subject of this merry board game among Formula 1 fans and pundits, in the face of which he recently reaffirmed his commitment to McLaren for 2023.
So we sat down with Ricciardo and St. Hugo’s Munro to talk about wine, the growth of F1, the impact of Drive to survive and life after racing.
How did you come into contact with St. Hugo to launch this wine partnership?
Daniel Ricciardo: I think it was 2020 – or 2019 – I’m so confused because of Covid. It was on the F1 track in Melbourne and we connected – but I had known St. Hugo for most of my life – and then it all took off pretty quickly after that.
Why did you think a collaboration with St. Hugo was right for you?
DR: I get a lot of opportunities, but it was something that I not only find fun, but that I was passionate about. To give you some background, I grew up around wine. I have an Italian background so there was always wine at the table with the family always dining together – no TV at the table. Dad and [my grandfather] I made homemade wine, which tasted like vinegar, so that was always something I was involved in. Of course, not in a professional sense, but just as a way of life. Once we spoke, I was sold right away. Being an Australian company and an Australian brand, that was the last tick in the box.
When you drink wine, what do you lean towards? Do you have favorites?
DR: I take a little from my father, because he collects wine and he has a cellar, so very early on I learned from him. If in doubt, I’m a Shiraz and a Cab Sav. It’s very patriotic of me to love an Aussie shiraz, it’s my favourite. I also like American taxis.
With dad, like I said, he was trying to make homemade stuff and sometimes I was put off by the wine because it tasted like his stuff [laughs]. He’ll probably never read this so I can tell, his stuff was really bad. I am the one who now fills good bottles for his collection. I’m like, “Dad, drink the good stuff. You’re starting to get along so at least have the good stuff for the rest of your life. [laughs].”
We profiled CJ McCollum, an NBA star who also makes wine, and he explained that there’s a real community in the league of wine lovers. Did you find the same thing in F1 where you talk about wine with some of the guys?
DR: A few days ago I offered Valtteri Bottas a bottle of year 1, I gave it to him after the driver’s meeting on Friday – he is a huge fan of wine and Aussie wine too – and asked him to tell me what he thought of it. I saw him on Saturday and he said, “Oh, that’s really good.” And I was like, “Did you get it last night?!”
I also offered a bottle to Pierre Gasly and to some team managers as well as to other teams. So, yeah, there’s a bit of sharing wine together.
Cabs are grown in Coonawara, how would you describe this growing region, Peter?
Peter Munro: It’s a pretty cool region and the way I describe Cabernet, to me it’s a pretty serious wine. So when you’re with friends and the conversation starts to get meaningful, that’s where the cabernet takes over, while the shiraz is a bit more open and fruity.
You described the DR3 Cab as a departure from the house style of St. Hugo, how would you say it differs?
PM: It has more lush fruit, really quite dark blackberry notes, whereas the St. Hugo is probably a bit more restrained and structural. It’s just letting the fruit come to the fore and be quite expressive.
When it comes to Shiraz, how would you describe the regions you draw from it to blend?
PM: Shiraz comes from different parts of South Australia and it’s kind of like California – really blessed with amazing different wine regions – and we can choose different characteristics from three or four different regions.
You described the DR3 blend as a modern take on Australian Shiraz. How does it differ from tradition and what do people expect from shiraz?
PM: It’s modern in the sense that it’s probably a bit more fruity. Daniel is very attached to this powerful, ripe, generous fruit and to seeing generosity reflected in the wines. Therefore, I would describe this as a bit more modern style instead of a bit more tannic and structured.
You mentioned what Daniel likes, how do you work together to create the wines – and how was the first year different from the second?
DR: So the first year was quite restricted with Covid and travel and not being able to do it in the field. And I was also trying to educate myself through Pete and figure out what I like and what I’m able to taste and describe. And then year two is when we really got into mixing and that was the right tutorial. We started going back and forth trying to get the mixes together and mixing a ton of them together.
Were you able to relate it to your daily work?
DR: I feel like there are many ways to understand the process, because there are a lot of technical things that are the same as in Formula 1, like when we go back and forth with the engineers trying to refine the car so it’s more comfortable for me. Some of the terminology is quite similar, and we’ll go back and forth with Pete and myself. It’s just the little things, and that’s what’s really fun when you’re trying to find that perfect taste, whatever that tastes like is perfect for you.
PM: And Daniel is actually really good when we go through all the components of the mix and we can choose what each component brings to that mix. That’s what’s interesting about the mix: nothing is perfect, but you have to put a lot of different things together to make a perfect one. I was very impressed with his palate and his ability to communicate that.
Danny, have you ever drunk that out of your shoe?
DR: Funny thing, you’re not the first person to ask me that.
Your reputation precedes you.
DR: I think it’s too good to do that. But when we got into year two, you sit at the table and come up with all these ideas and that was one, we have to make you do some work with it. Lo and behold, we ended up making a decanter, to which we were like, “I don’t know, are we pushing too far? Then this fucking thing sold out in seven days and I was like what the hell? So there’s an appetite for shoes and wine, I believe [laughs].
I’m sure the company [Ferrari Trento] whoever sponsors the sparkling wine you spray on the F1 podium will be delighted to learn that your wine is too good to drink out of a shoe, but theirs is fine.
Will you make more decanters?
DR: We’re not sure yet. Would there be a request? I’d say so considering how they flew off the shelf, but they were meant to be something collectible, so we’ll see. This is something we will discuss, but there is no concrete plan.
You mentioned earlier that many opportunities are coming your way, and I’m curious to know what effect Drive to survive has been on it for you. I came to the sport watching the Netflix show, and it appeared halfway through your F1 career, so have you been able to tell the difference since the show started?
DR: It radically changed him. There’s always been certain places in the world where we race and they’ve had an F1 fanbase – you go to certain places and you’ll have a sea of fans outside your hotel, and now it’s at each race. There are no more quiet races. I spend quite a bit of time in the US and the US used to be a quiet place, and now there are so many more F1 fans here. It’s pretty crazy what this show has done for the sport.
DR: You know, it’s always been a sport where it was very private and behind closed doors. And I think it’s a very cool sport, which is why I got into it. I loved it and I don’t think it got visibility. Now that he’s got exposure, people are like, “Oh shit, yeah, that’s really cool.” You just had to put it in front of people and they would naturally be drawn to it.
When I’ve spoken to athletes about projects like starting a wine, they said they plan to prepare for their post-career while they play. Do you see this wine as something to go after the race and what do you want to do with your life after F1?
DR: I just turned 33, so with maturity and a bit of wisdom, you start to think that this isn’t going to last forever and that at some point there will be life after F1. I’m thinking about it a bit, but for now, if I have fun and take the opportunity and learn from it. I will keep doing it and if it becomes something I can continue after F1, great. But with the F1 calendar and everything going on in it, it’s really good to have some healthy distraction and other hobbies so I can disconnect from racing. So, is this something that I enjoy very much and could I see myself continuing for a long time? I would like to think so.