Formula 1's Daniel Ricciardo Talks Wine | Wine Enthusiast
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Formula 1’s Daniel Ricciardo on Wine, Racing and the Year Ahead

The Australian Formula 1 driver and breakout star of its Netflix docuseries, Drive to Survive, spends his weekends racing at 200 miles-per-hour at some of the world’s most iconic tracks. But three years ago, he also found time to launch a wine collection with St. Hugo, a South Australian winery. And in typical Ricciardo fashion, he can’t help but poke fun at himself when reminiscing about his first tasting.

“Everyone was spitting the wine out so professionally, making it look effortless,” he says. “And here I was dribbling all over myself, making a mess just trying to spit it out.”

For Ricciardo, one of Formula 1’s most popular drivers, wine has become a welcome distraction from the grueling and hectic season. Last year, his collection featured three wines: a Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Ric Red, a blend marketed as Ricciardo’s “secret sauce.”

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As the years have rolled on, Ricciardo has become more and more fascinated with winemaking, calling it “an artform.”

“It might sound silly, but it really reminds me of our sport,” he says. “There are levels to everything, and when you want to perfect something, the fine details are what matter.”

Ahead of this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix—the second race of the season—Wine Enthusiast sat down with Ricciardo to talk about his collection, how he juggles his on-and-off-track responsibilities and how he fits wine into his in-season diet.

Daniel Ricciardo in a vineyard
Image Courtesy of DR3 X ST HUGO

When you first started this collaboration three years ago, you said you were hoping to learn a lot about winemaking. So, what have you learned?

Well, I’ve learned that I still use very interesting words to describe what I’m tasting or feeling. I wouldn’t say my wine grammar has perfected itself yet.

Is that so? What are some ways you describe a wine’s flavor profile?

Like an explosion in my mouth! “Tingles” is another good one. Or fireworks in my mouth. That makes it sound a bit like Pop Rocks. Remember those?

But seriously, I’ve learned a lot. I got to go to the winery in South Australia and see and experience everything with [St. Hugo chief winemaker] Pete Munro, witness how much of an operation it all is. I’ve learned to understand what I’m tasting and how my palate reacts to certain things—describing what I feel as it enters the palate, the midpalate and then towards the finish. Pete has taught me a lot, the way he guides me through it.

Could I do a full course on my own yet? Probably not. But I’ve made a lot of progress since year one.

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You’ve said one goal of this project is to highlight Australian wines. What would you say makes them so unique?

I first got into wine probably from my dad—he would drink a lot of Australian Shiraz. That deep, dark, red fruit—very full and heavy. To me, that is a strong, powerful Australian wine that speaks to our hot climates and our arid soils. Our tough landscape. That’s kind of how I always pictured it.

But we obviously do other stuff. We have amazing Pinots and those types of things. But my image was always the harsh, dry climate producing bold, tough wines.

Daniel Ricciardo next to a bottle of DR3 x ST HUGO
Image Courtesy of DR3 X ST HUGO

Athletes, especially race car drivers, are always watching their diets. How do you incorporate wine into the season?

When I got into this, I was cautious of giving people the impression that I’m drinking two glasses every night. I’m still an athlete. But there are moments. If we’ve had three races in a row, we might get two weekends off. That first weekend, I can chill out a bit, catch up with friends, enjoy some wine with dinner. And the general way of drinking wine—for me, at least—is to sip and enjoy. It’s not something you typically drink to get, you know, hammered. Even if it’s a couple glasses, I know I’m going to wake up the next day and be fine to train if I need to.

Oh, and if I had a good race—I might enjoy a glass to celebrate that, too.

Speaking of celebrations, you’re obviously famous for the “shoey”—drinking Champagne out of your own race boot when you earn a podium. You’ve mentioned before that you wouldn’t dream of drinking your own wines like that.

Yeah, the thought of knocking it back doesn’t seem like an enjoyable way to consume wine. Plus, I’m bound to miss my mouth, so I’d be covered and stained in red. Fortunately, it’s the sparkling type we have on the podiums.

You’re about to embark on the longest season in F1’s history, with 24 total races. How do you find time to also focus on your wine business?

I would call it a positive distraction. It’s a long season, and I don’t want to go to bed thinking about racing every night. On race weeks, sure, that’s where I spend all my energy. But back from the track, Monday through Wednesday, I want to switch off and decompress. Having another interest like wine is quite positive for me, and it also keeps my switch on and engaged—I’m learning something new.

From a racing perspective, your team looked pretty good in pre-season testing. What are your expectations for the year ahead?

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If we could score points, we’d be really happy. I think we’re probably borderline of that, at the moment… We have a lot of new people on the team, and I see us growing together and getting stronger as the year goes on.

And hopefully you can turn those new teammates into fans of your wine, too.

Oh, yeah—I’ve definitely handed out a few bottles, even to other drivers. [Finnish driver] Valtteri Bottas is really into his wine. I gave him some of my Cab Sav last year and he enjoyed it. I think Pierre Gasly, being French, definitely enjoys wine, so I gave him a few bottles. It’s nice to share it.

You’re turning the whole paddock into fans.

Yeah, and when people give you feedback—say that they enjoy what you’re producing—it’s a nice reward. That’s what I enjoy the most.