In early 2020, Post Malone, his manager Dre London, and their business partner James Morrissey were excitedly gearing up to drop their French rosé, Maison No. 9, when the pandemic hit. With cases of the wine shipping from France, the trio leaned toward proceeding but found themselves surrounded by caution.
“People told us, ‘You guys are crazy. There’s a pandemic!’” London tells VinePair. “We were like, ‘But we always planned to drop our wine for summer 2020.’ We didn’t even know alcohol consumption was going up during the pandemic — those stats weren’t out yet.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, music industry tricks weaved their way into London’s business practices with Maison No. 9. His love for music started young; growing up in London, he became enamored observing his grandfather playing music. This later helped inspire the launch of his agency, London Entertainment Group.
London has since led clients like Post Malone and rapper Tyga to global success. Naturally, there have been parties, drinking, and socializing along the way — which is how London and Post became rosé lovers. Once London began noticing how much money Post was spending on his evolving passion for wine, his entrepreneurial spirit kicked in as he spotted a business opportunity and suggested the two launch their own brand.
And just as Grammy-winner Post smashes album and ticket sales, the 2020 release of Maison No. 9 caused a sales frenzy. A presale for the Grenache rosé from Provence resulted in the highest demand for a single item in one day on Vivino — crashing the website before selling 50,000 bottles in 48 hours. The wine’s now available in the U.S., Canada, and U.K., with further international launches pending, including Australia.
And it’s only the beginning, as London plans to expand his brand into a drinks empire. The music mogul chatted about breaking gender stereotypes around rosé, launching a brand during a global pandemic, and Mark Wahlberg’s role in igniting Post’s taste for wine.
1. How did you develop your love for wine?
In England, you can drink when you’re 18, and I got into my uncle’s culture — going out and drinking Champagne was the popping thing to do. I tried dark spirits, different liquors, and Mad Dog 20/20, but the first alcohol I really enjoyed was Champagne. In the U.K., if you were a baller, you were drinking Champagne!
2. Alcohol’s embedded into the music industry. How much was it a part of building your relationship with Post?
The music business and alcohol go hand in hand. The bad side is when people aren’t drinking responsibly, and I strongly advise against that because you don’t want to abuse anything.
The good side is that in the music industry we’re awake late at night — whether that’s in the studio, at a party, or performing — and it’s fun. In 2014, when I first met Post at the “White House” [where he lived] in Encino, Calif., he was making hooch for late-night parties.
Then, when we started working together, the thing that had everyone excited was exclusive parties we started throwing for single or video releases, with free alcohol. People were lined down the street trying to get in.
3. How did the two of you get into rosé?
I never saw Post drinking wine at first. Bud Light was his drink of choice. But then he started going for dinner with friends. We went to Mark Wahlberg’s house, and he has an extensive wine collection. I remember Post switching it up and drinking expensive wine — big, $20,000 bottles from Wally’s Beverly Hills. I was thinking, “Really? You’re spending $20,000 on something you’re going to drink then pee out?”
He developed this proper taste for wine. Red wine was his favorite. Then, we started drinking rosé. I said to him, “With all this money being spent on wine, why don’t we come up with our own?”
4. How did things progress from there?
Within two weeks of that conversation, James [Morrissey], who I met through a friend, asked if I’d be interested in wine. The timing was crazy because I was just talking to Post about spending too much money on wine.
We had previously done our first business in alcohol with Bud Light. I had earlier told them how we should have a can with Post’s face on it, and they thought I was crazy. We eventually did a deal with Bud Light’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch, when Post was 23. And after two years of deals, Bud Light wanted to put Post’s face on a can. I was like, “I told you guys this three years ago!” We did it, and Bud Light sales went crazy because Post was on stage like a rock star, drinking Bud Light. Then, Justin Bieber started drinking it and there were photos of them drinking it together on tour. Bud Light was already huge, but a younger demographic started looking at them as cool.
So fast forward to the wine idea, and I thought back to the deals we did with Bud Light and started thinking about branding. Then we were touring in Europe and had two days off, so went to the south of France to see the vineyard and learn about the wine. After the first night, Post woke up saying, “I had the best sleep I’ve had in years.” The vineyard was so peaceful and nice, and it all started growing from there.
5. How hands on was Post in the process?
We started speaking about what he liked — he didn’t like sweet wine, and he didn’t want the color too pink. Then we went back to France and met with the mixologist. Post was very hands on with everything, from the flavor to the bottle.
We were trying to find a name, and in France, a house is “maison,” and we included nine because Post had been looking at the number nine tarot card. Then, we got the sword with the barbed wire around it, and the barbed wire was from [Post’s 2018 album] “Beerbongs & Bentleys.”
Meanwhile, I was looking at which artists were in the wine space, and it became obvious we’d be filling a gap. Everyone who tasted it wanted more. We had cases and cases of wine coming to America for the launch. Then, the pandemic hit.
6. People advised you to pause at that point. Why did you feel you should still go ahead?
The timing and energy still felt right, so we did a presale, and it was a great success. We were able to promote and market the wine with less money because everyone was home scrolling [on] Instagram and TikTok. That gave different businesses a chance to break and Maison No. 9 was one of those. We crashed the [Vivino] website! Then, critics and wine snobs started saying how good the wine was, without even knowing it was connected to Post. It was the craziest moment.
7. Why do you think the timing was so perfect?
I don’t want to put it all down to this, but the pandemic was happening, then George Floyd [was killed], and the world started changing. And while the world was changing, suddenly, you have this display box in a store with a Black guy and a white guy on it. Can you name another wine that has a Black guy involved?
The timing was right for everything, from the way we marketed it to what was happening in the world. Some might call it luck, but I believe in “preparation meets opportunity.” We were prepared for the opportunity, then luck helped things move forward.
8. How has your music background helped you in the wine business?
I looked at stuff we do to sell music and tried to emulate that in the alcohol space, and it worked. But this was different because we now move music through streaming, and wine is something physical you have to pick up in the store. I thought back to when I used to go to the record store with my mom to buy a CD and how social media might help get people to the store. We definitely mixed the music side in.
9. Has the brand’s success affected how you and Post feel as men drinking rosé?
Yes, it has! No one expected an artist with tattoos on his face or someone who looks the way Post does to be in the rosé wine space. It went from, “Rosé is for girls,” to us making it cool. Not to say it wasn’t cool to drink rosé, but we’ve helped make more men drink rosé. I think we’ve added masculinity to the rosé market.
10. You’re also launching a spirit later this year. Can you share what it is?
It’s a tequila I’ve been working on for two years. Post started tasting it a year ago and couldn’t believe how good it was. His only experience of tequila was in high school — drinking Patrón, puking, and never wanting it again. Now he’s an investor supporting me. It was made by the González family from Mexico, and I feel my team has the best tequila in the world about to come out.
Between that and the rosé, I’m creating my own modern-day Diageo. We have seltzers coming, and Post has his own beer coming out. We’re in this space to stay!