Fall is here. Know how a wine writer can tell? The reds start arriving in the mail, awaiting my assessment. So do the pitches, both predictable and strange.
Along with the usual stuff about Thanksgiving pairings and holiday must-haves, I get a fair share of off-the-wall craziness from the crowded and competitive world of vino. Case in point: Game of Thrones wine.
That’s right -- I just received a bottle of Westeros’ best. (Actually, it’s been out since late June, but they’ve decided to hit me up now, at the beginning of the appropriate season – June is not the best month to roll out a red wine, guys.)
Created by Vintage Wine Estates in collaboration with HBO Licensing and Retail, the GOT line was introduced in the spring of 2017 with a chardonnay, a cabernet sauvignon and a red blend (somehow, I missed that festive occasion). This year, they’re trotting out a pinot noir. Descriptors like “game-y,” “barnyard” and “forest floor,” commonly used for pinot, seem especially apropos here, given the general filthiness of the GOT world. (I shudder to think how they crush grapes in King’s Landing.)
The justification for this silly piece of cross marketing is explained in the press release: “‘Game of Thrones’ features wine in many of its scenes from the Seven Kingdoms, and the initial launch of Game of Thrones wine gave fans of the Lannisters and Targaryens their own sigil-emblazoned bottlings.”
I don’t know about you, but every time I see a wine-guzzling scene in “Game of Thrones” I think of some of the wilder frat parties I attended as an undergrad. And there are scenes where wine portends disaster. (Remember when Arya avenged the Red Wedding? Glad I missed that particular tasting. “Proper wine for proper heroes” indeed!)
The only character with a discerning palate seems to be Tyrion, the tiniest but classiest Lannister, who often remarks about the quality of the wine he’s tasting and seems to have a knack for sniffing out the best. I have a feeling he’d be a pinot drinker. (His incestuous brother and sister, on the other hand, would drink only Sinister Hand if they lived in the real world. Or maybe 19 Crimes.)
This newest GOT wine is made by winemaker Bob Cabral and it comes from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, an area that excels in Burgundian-style pinots with restraint and all the other requisite Old World qualities.
“The new pinot noir is a worthy addition for the Game of Thrones line of wines, as it was inspired by the complexity and nuances of this riveting drama,” Cabral said. And also by visions of GOT fans lining up in the tasting room, crowds so vast only a fire-spouting dragon could scatter them. At around $20 retail, Game of Thrones pinot noir won’t break the bank, and it’s a welcome departure from the prevailing trend toward premium pricing in the American pinot world.
I decided not to wait for Thanksgiving (or the beginning of “GOT’s” final season) to crack open the pinot. Inquisitive minds want to know how it tastes, right?
Perhaps HBO will find a way to run me through like Robb Stark for saying this, but I hope this isn’t considered the best wine in the Seven Kingdoms. My assessment:
Color: A pale violet, like a good Burgundian pinot should be. Think of Winterfell snow lightly dusted with blood.
Nose: Bland and veiled, like Littlefinger’s outward appearance.
On the palate: Tame at the start with hints of wildness coming up later – exactly like Sansa Stark.
Finish: A full and noble flavor that cuts off unexpectedly, like Sansa’s father, Lord Eddard Stark.
All in all, I can imagine Tyrion knocking back a flagon or two of this wine, but he wouldn’t be hoarding it for himself either. Would he trade it all for an ounce or two of wildfire? Definitely.