Will they appeal to the series’ legions of fans?
Dear wine lover, here is a question for you. Would you buy a wine launched in the name of your favourite television show?
In a brand new merchandising blitz, HBO is doing just that: cashing in on the massive popularity of Game of Thrones, by licensing the release of a portfolio of three wines – two red wines and one white. I guess these could be classified under the umbrella of ‘celebrity wines’ – Game of Thrones is one of the biggest, most expensive shows ever on TV, and is entitled to have star status bestowed on it on its own merit.
But the biggest question today is (now that we know Jon Snow’s parentage): would you buy these wines?
Let me begin by saying that I’m not an apologist for celebrity wines, aka wines made and marketed with celebrity names behind them. And there are many, many such – tagged with starry names like Olivia Newton John to Nicki Minaj to Marilyn (Monroe) Merlot, with ex-golfing icons and racing car drivers also in the fray. Most of these wines can be called unremarkable at best, riding purely on their celebrity associations (and yes, there’s a Trump winery too!). (With notable exceptions – for example, Francis Ford Coppola’s wines, like his films, are a critic’s delight. Ditto Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s Provençal rosé wine, Miraval, which is both well rated as well as a marketing hit. In his heyday, French actor Gerard Depardieu was known as much for his love of wine as his acting.)
What is especially intriguing is the fact that these new Game of Thrones wines have been made by a reputable winemaker. California-based Bob Cabral has some wines to his name which have been highly rated at 90 points and more . A Pinot Noir he’s made for California’s Williams Selyem Winery has accrued 100 points. He was also named Winemaker of the year 2011 by Wine Enthusiast magazine. Of course, he is a self-avowed Game of Thrones fan himself.
The reviews of the wines are coming in. The 2016 Chardonnay is bright, buttery and fruit- forward – like golden queen Cersei Lannister, perhaps? – and priced at $19.99. The red blend, also 2016 vintage, is comprised of eight different grape varieties including Tempranillo and Syrah is fairly strong and muscly with lashings of oak – (Jon Snow? Or if you prefer, Daenerys?) and is also at $19.99. The Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 is the red wine picking up best critics’ reviews – a nobly made wine full of good intention and backbone like the members of House Stark – and is priciest at $49.99.
None are cheap. In fact, these are expensive wines. Evidently Game of Thrones fans are seen as being as rich as the slavers of Meereen before Daenerys lit into them – literally. All fit the prescribed GoT profile – big and deliberately self-assertive wines – as wine critic Natalie Maclean intoned in her review: “Are they fit for a King, Queen or cunning relative?” Not sure about that, but if even half of GoT‘s massive fan base decided to buy the wines, HBO would be laughing all the way to the bank.
The bottle design is all elegant gold and black and embossed, very much in keeping with the theme with the astrolabe displaying the sigils from the Seven Kingdoms across the label, much as it appears in the opening credits of the show.
Wine, the chosen one: The association with wine and therefore HBO’s decision to create a portfolio of GoT wines is no forced fit; the characters in the show are wine lovers, pouring a cup at every given opportunity. Here are a few:
GoT wine fan #1: Tyrion is GoT’s biggest wine drinker, bar none. In his earlier dissolute days, he was shown drinking wine to drown his sorrows rather than in true appreciation of the beverage. But I have no doubt, canny chap that he is, he would know his vintage wines from his plonk.
GoT wine fan #2: Cersei follows next, rarely ever seen without a rather elegant coupe in hand and steely gleam in her eye. No doubt the scheming queen needed to fortify herself for all her machinations to come.
GoT wine fan #3: Wine is what possibly courses through the veins of Walder Frey, that irascible, Machiavellian head of House Frey and ally of the Lannisters. He is seen in the series more often than not with wine goblet in hand, and death often follows the banquet he hosts (no spoilers coming, I promise.)
GoT wine fan #4: I like the attractive but equally Machiavellian Mama Sand Snake Ellaria Sand who is often heard decrying the evils of bad wine. Wine from her homeland of Dorne is clearly considered several notches above those from the other kingdoms. A wine connoisseur. One approves.
So, would you buy a bottle of Game of Thrones wine? If so, which appeals most? Write in with your comments or tweet your views to me (@RumaSi on Twitter) on any you have tried, or would like to.
You can buy your favourite Game of Throne wine online at http://www.gameofthroneswines.com/wine-shop?view_all