Here at VinePair, we really love Game of Thrones. In the past, we’ve brought you a map to the wines of Westeros and last week we examined the real word equivalents to all the wines consumed by the characters. Now with season five (finally) under way, we want to ensure that you have a reliable wine pairing for a Sunday evening watching the elites of the Seven Kingdoms duke it out for the Iron Throne. That’s why you should probably stock up on a couple bottles of Rioja in advance of this week’s episode.
A quintessentially Spanish red wine, Rioja comes in four primary classifications. Ranging from least amount of time aged in oak to most, Cosecha (formerly known simply as Rioja), Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva will vary greatly in price and taste. In terms of taste, Riojas on the whole are marked by a high level of tannins as well as their structure, similar to a Cabernet Sauvignon, while maintaining great acidity and fruity flavors and characteristics reminiscent of a Pinot Noir.
Because the flavor profile of a Rioja is so varied, dependent not only on its aging – the longer it ages, the more it was exposed to oak – but also the region in Rioja where the grapes were harvested, it tends to pair well with a variety of food groups. However, your best bet is something savory, even spicy. Think Spanish cured meats like jamon iberico or chorizo. This type of fare is fitting, as it seems reminiscent of the meats that might be served and enjoyed by the aristocracy of King’s Landing.
A wine like Rioja is befitting of the cast of Game of Thrones; just like the many nuances of the styles of this variety, the people of Westeros are so different from one another, yet they are thematically united in their quest for power, be it Stark, Baratheon, Lannister, Targaryen or otherwise. Although, let’s face it, Daenerys Targaryen is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne without question.
When I decided to get on board the Game of Thrones bandwagon last year, four years late to the party, I was skeptical. In fact, it took me three attempts to watch the first episode, because whenever I looked up from the television, I would return to find everyone on screen dead. However, over time it’s become clear that GOT is less a television show and more of a cultural phenomenon. Now, I find myself anxiously awaiting the opportunity to spend an hour every Sunday night with friends, immersed in the action of Westeros, and then speculating on the couch for another ninety minutes about what’s coming next. Because the show is so gripping, the striking taste of a Rioja makes for the perfect pour as we all anxiously await what comes next.
Colette Bloom is a writer living in New York. In the eighth grade, she read the first half of Atlas Shrugged but then it fell out of her backpack and the spine cracked and she figured it would be easier to just watch TV. Follow her on Twitter @cobloom.