The 95th Academy Awards, more usually known as The Oscars, saw the usual glittering array of award-winning stars thanking their agents, managers and occasionally screenwriters. One former member of that last profession, though, made a cameo role in a very different capacity this year.
Prince Robert of Luxembourg worked as a screenwriter in a past life, but this year he attended the Oscars to raise a glass to the film industry instead. And the wine in that glass was from one of the estates within his portfolio, Domaine Clarence Dillon, which has been chosen as the exclusive red and white wine partner for the Oscars in 2023 and beyond. Prince Robert is chairman and CEO of Domaine Clarence Dillon, owner of Bordeaux first growth Château Haut-Brion among other estates.
Other hospitality partners for this year’s Oscars include Fleur de Miraval, the rosé Champagne from Brad Pitt’s own brand (our First Taste of the new iteration is here), and celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. Though both of those are returning, this is the first year Domaine Clarence Dillon has been involved.
The partnership is a high-profile way to show off Clarendelle, one of the company’s newest brands. The range includes a Bordeaux red, white and rosé as well as appellation wines from the Médoc, St-Emilion and Pessac-Léognan and sweet-style Amberwine. The range was revitalised in 2019 with a distinctive new logo and brand identity.
‘For us to reach one of the most important events in the world of the arts, and be present, is a testament to the way these wines are appreciated,’ Prince Robert said, ‘and to the success the Clarendelle brand has known globally since that first vintage in 2002.
‘For me, personally, it’s also fun to be back. I was, at one stage of my life, a screenwriter, and I started working here in Los Angeles back in 1992. Wine has a great creative element, so a lot of my creative focus over the last few years has gone into wine production – it’s all about creativity and blending.’
Since he moved from screenwriting to running his family’s wine business in 2002, the company has undeniably flourished. One of his first ventures was to launch the Clarendelle, Inspired by Haut-Brion brand producing elegant, modern wines at more accessible price points compared to other wines in the group.
Two of these wines were served at the Oscars this Sunday: the 2021 Clarendelle Bordeaux white, a blend of 43% Sauvignon Blanc, 32% Sémillon and 25% Muscadelle, and the 2016 Bordeaux red, a blend of 84% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Cabernet Franc.
Also being poured was Le Dragon de Quintus 2018, the second wine of Château Quintus, a rising star on Bordeaux’s Right Bank since it was purchased by Domaine Clarence Dillon in 2011. The 2018 is a blend of 75.2% Merlot and 24.8% Cabernet Franc.
Backstage, ‘a few lucky nominees and winners’ were also able to sample one of the region’s rarest white wines: La Clarté de Haut-Brion 2017, a blend of 69.4% Sémillon and 30.6% Sauvignon Blanc. Made in small quantities, this wine is the second label common to both Château La Mission Haut-Brion and Château Haut-Brion and is produced by blending grapes from the two estates.
As for how he got their wine into the Oscars in the first place, Prince Robert noted it was a lengthy process and long conversation that was almost a year in the making. ‘I came out here over a year ago and started meeting some of the team, and chatting about the opportunities,’ he said. ‘We had people that we knew in common, and it’s all about trust and communication with the right people.
‘It took us a long while to make sure that we were worthy of what they were looking for, and that we could match what was needed at the Oscars. Because we tend to produce very small batch wines, very small production wines, and obviously, we can’t serve everything, but we also want to have variety. So we’ll be serving different wines over the next few years, because we will be working with the Oscars for a number of years.’
Supplying wine to the Oscars is certainly a big-screen statement, but Domaine Clarence Dillon has already been involved in the larger cinematic universe; in the past it has sponsored Cannes Film Festival and the Festival International du Film Indépendant de Bordeaux, Clarendelle has been featured in several episodes of hit television programme Emily in Paris, and the brand will also be an official partner of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles for 2023.
So in some ways, this starry partnership is well-known territory for the brand. ‘Historically, we’ve done a lot with other cultural entities in the world of arts,’ said Prince Robert. ‘And I’ve always been interested in working with wine in the arts, especially with a focus on mentoring young artists, whether it’s in music or in cinema. And now is the right time for us, with our 20th vintage, to be present at a big event like this.’