National Wine Week 2022 ran from October 10-14, so CASSIUS features our interview with 4x NBA champ Tony Parker and luxury hospitality entrepreneur Michel Reybier discussing their new business venture in wine, champagne, and living the good life.
Since retiring from professional basketball play in 2019, Parker has been enjoying life away from the court and dabbling in a wide array of ventures. And with that, the 40-year-old Frenchman has also decided to invest in one of his country’s most popular pastimes: wine. Earlier this year, it was announced that he was teaming up with his friend Reybier to venture more seriously into the world of vino.
Parker will be focused on Reybier’s La Mascaronne line of wines, as well as his Champagne Jeeper and his own buddy’s eponymous champagne brand, too. Both gentlemen spoke with us about the beauty of their partnership, what goes into making a a premier wine, how to choose the right foods based on your glass, and more.
Read on to learn what makes the tandem of Parker and Reybier one of the ones to watch in the world of wine and champagne.
CASSIUSLife: Thanks Michel for taking the time to speak with CASSIUSLife. So for the uninitiated, can you please educate us on what separates a mediocre wine from a great one?
Michel Reybier: The line separating the greats from the not-so-greats comes down to terroir, from climate all the way down to soil quality. At Château La Mascaronne, we benefit from high elevation: our vineyards span hillsides that spiral 300 feet upward. To even reach the vineyards you would have to climb to the highest point of the estate. The altitude encourages cool night-time breezes that sweep in, which are very important for freshness and acidity. This is what helps us preserve the dry, elegant character that we so often see in Provençal rosé.
Quality is further enhanced by the vines being planted in excellent clay-limestone soils that vary acre by acre. Our wines are 100% produced from the grapes we grow ourselves, which for us really makes a difference. The soil variation, together with the specific microclimate, is conducive to producing artisanal rosé, or rosé de terroir as we say in French.
What also helps is our commitment to growing all our grapes organically. The vines, the olive trees that form the perimeter of the vineyard, the gardens – everything is cultivated organically, with respect for nature and the integrity of the ecosystem. We made the shift away from conventional viticulture back in 2016.
It’s not just terroir and climate though. Having the best possible fruit grown from the best soils, under the best weather conditions, is an ideal starting point. But once we get inside the winery, what gets us to the finish line –– what gets us from an ordinary bottle to a truly wonderful bottle –– is the winemaker’s artistry. This is the case with La Mascaronne, a beautiful blend of grenache, cinsault, syrah and vermentino.
CASSIUSLife: You speak of “a particular energy… A special kind of alchemy that puts you at ease.” when it comes to Provence. So when can we expect to see some of that “soul and charm” land stateside? And how can I purchase my own bottles for my next brunch or dinner?
Michel Reybier: Provence has captivated me for more than 15 years – it’s a love affair that goes back to when I opened La Réserve Ramatuelle, perched over the French Riviera. Château La Mascaronne, being just a stone’s throw away from the hotel, provides a little window into the soul of the region; a chance not just to glimpse daily French life, but to also experience it.
The rosé is available at JJ Buckley Fine Wine and B 21, both of which ship across the U.S. It’s also served at Ducasse’s Benoit in New York, at Tesse in Los Angeles and at Doya in Miami.
I hope that La Mascaronne is considered as one of the best rosés in the world.
CASSIUSLife: What about Tony let you know this was the right partnership to make? How did it grow from a friendship into this joint business venture?
Michel Reybier: I catch glimpses of myself in Tony. He’s president of ASVEL Basket, one of my favorite basketball teams in Lyon, and lives locally, so our friendship naturally sprang from there. He understands the kind of commitment that leadership and excellence require with any pursuit in life, whether on the basketball court or in the vineyard. It’s an opportunity to show that in France, just as much as in America, a top athlete can possess the drive to become a great entrepreneur, and I am confident that Tony is capable of this. Tony also believes in collaborating: he’s just as driven as a partner as he is a principal.
CASSIUSLife: So Tony, could you give us a breakdown of how the partnership began between you and Mr. Reybier?
Tony Parker: Basically, with Mr. Reybier, he’s obviously been in the business for a long time. So I knew he was from Lyon, and he used to own the basketball team that I own right now. In 2002, he had it for one year. And I knew he liked sports. I was visiting one of his places and we decided to talk and exchange different ideas and stuff like that.
After a while, he knew that I was a big fan of wine and that I would organize nice dinners in San Antonio every month. I’ll get, like, a nice castle, a nice champagne, and I will invite them to do a nice dinner with Coach [Gregg] Popovich and then we’ll invite them to a San Antonio Spurs game.
And so, yeah, after talking for like, eight months, we decided to do something together. He had a great opportunity with the rose, with Château La Mascaronne and Jeeper with the campaign, and so I thought it’d be a good idea. I always wanted to invest in champagne and wine, but it’s hard to find the good deals.
It’s very hard to find the good deals because it’s been in families for generations and generations, and I’m just happy that I could find a great deal while I’m with somebody that I can learn from and do something for a long time.
CASSIUSLife: That’s awesome. So can you tell us a little bit about the different wine and champagne lines that you’re supporting and what’s the difference between them?
Tony Parker: So now I’m all in with La Mascaronne , with the rosé, and what I like with that project is everything is organic, handmade, everything is 100% good for your health. So that’s what I like the most about that project. And most of them are doing that. But this one particularly is very careful with all of that. We’re benefiting too, from all the experience, from the team that is working at Cos d’Estournel because this is one of the biggest Bordeaux in the world, and so Mr. Reybier owns that one, too.
So it’s nice to talk with them because they have a lot of experience and they can help us with how we’re going to make our rosé and make it a very high-end rosé. And then the champagne, same thing. It’s the same technique, everything is organic. And that’s one of the main things why I wanted to go with those champagne and rosé, because the image, the brand, the quality of the product was something that I was looking for.
CASSIUSLife: Now, one question that I have is that it seems lately, maybe that’s just my own ignorance. A lot of basketball players are recently displaying their affinity for wine. Is that something that was always part of basketball culture, and fans never knew? Or is that a new development as well?
Tony Parker: That’s a great question. For me, I grew up with it, so for me it’s the French culture. So for me, it’s hard to answer that question because, like a lot of guys, when I first arrived in the league, they had no clue about wine. Is it recent? Yeah, maybe, because now people are very proud. You see Dwyane Wade and LeBron [James], all of them, they’re showing stories on Instagram that they’re drinking wine and very proud of what they’re drinking.
For me, it’s like I grew up with it, so for me, it’s like normal to drink great wine. So I say, yeah, it’s recent, I think. But I think it’s recent for basketball players. I don’t think it’s recent for American people.
I think American people always loved wine. One of the biggest judges of wine was Robert Parker, Jr.. People in wine culture were always looking forward to how Robert was going to grade their wine. He was a big part of the evolution of wine in the U.S.
CASSIUSLife: When you spoke with Wine Spectator in April, you said that “the values around those properties in terms of where you work, they match what I wanted to do with giving back to my community.” So can you please expand a little more on what you mean by giving back via the partnership?
Tony Parker: Because you create jobs. And everything that I do in my investments is focused on sports, education, and well-being. And for me, if you can create jobs and create opportunities, then that’s my way to give back to my country.
With the Tony Parker Adéquat Academy, I give back and create opportunities for the young generation. And at the same time, I try to do that in stuff where I’m passionate — and I’m passionate about wine and champagne. So if I can invest in a project where it has great values, creates jobs, and is good for the community, then I think it’s a win-win situation.
And for me, if you can create jobs and create opportunities, then that’s my way to give back to my country.
CASSIUSLife: Now, what do you recommend somebody pair the wines with?
Tony Parker: I think everybody is different. That’s what I love about wine. There’s nothing perfect. I mean, people say, “You should drink white wine with fish,” but you can drink rosé or red wine. Everybody has their own opinion on this stuff. But at the end of the day, for me, my personal opinion is everybody does whatever they want.
I have friends who put a big ice cube of ice in a great Bordeaux, and I’m like, “Oh, my God, what are you doing?!” (laughs) But they’re like, “Yeah, I like to drink it cold.” So I’m like, “Okay, everybody’s different.” And I think nobody should judge.
Everybody got their preference food-wise and drink-wise. People say you should [only] drink rosé in the summer, but you can drink rosé all year long. Like, rosé is a great wine for me. Everybody should do whatever they want.
CASSIUSLife: Well, I have a bottle of Jeeper champagne in the fridge right now. So what should I have with it if I want to eat like Tony Parker and be a four-time NBA championship point guard?
Tony Parker: (laughs) I’ll drink Jeeper before we start dinner. You know, in France, we call that an apéro, or an aperitif. So I’ll drink the Jeeper before dinner or at dessert [time]. That’s also my favorite time to drink champagne.
But during the dinner, I always drink either any of the other colors: white, rosé, or red. Like a dessert wine.
CASSIUSLife: So what can we expect from the partnership with you and Mr. Reybier? Because this is your first year officially with them, right?
Tony Parker: Yes, first year. I hope that La Mascaronne is considered as one of the best rosés in the world. And that the way we make it becomes an example for every vineyard, and the same thing for our champagne, too.
I hope that people that drink our stuff are really enjoying the quality of it — and they have no headache. And that they enjoy it because we do it the right way, the organic way. (smiles)