Whether you’re a hardcore fan of Game of Thrones or just a casual reader/watcher, it isn’t hard to observe that the characters like to drink wine, a lot of wine. But unlike other popular television shows and novels where the beverages being drunk are ones that also exist in the real world, meaning we can partake in them too, the fantasy world of Game of Thrones — and the series of novels, A Song of Ice and Fire — exists solely in the head of George R.R. Martin, as do the wines the characters drink. That means that before watching an episode or digging into a new chapter of one of the books, we can’t easily head out to the store to procure a bottle of Arbor Gold or Dornish Sour Red to happily drink along with the characters. But that doesn’t mean we can’t come close…
Here are the real world wine equivalents you should be drinking if you want to drink like a character in Game of Thrones:
Arbor Gold – Sauternes
Arbor Gold is said to be the finest wine in all the Seven Kingdoms, known for its sweet and delicious flavor, not to mention its quaffability. The wine is drunk mostly by the ruling class and rich, and is considered a treat whenever it is consumed.
The best real world equivalent to this noble and desirable wine can only be Sauternes. Sauternes, a wine affected by noble rot that is made in the Bordeaux region of France, was well known to be a favored drink of Napoleon and is often said to be one of the most delicious and desirable wines made in the entire world. Chateau d’Yquem, which is considered to be the best producer of the wine, often fetches thousands of dollars a bottle. A bright yellow wine in its youth, as Sauternes becomes older its yellow color darkens into a deep dark gold – it’s at this stage that the wine is the most desirable and also the most expensive – we can see Tyrion consuming glass after glass.
Dornish Sour Reds – Nebbiolo
It can be difficult to determine what the heck Dornish Sour Red wines must taste like in the mind of R.R. Martin simply from the name, since there is really no such thing as a “sour” wine, so we’re going to take the term sour to mean high acidity, which causes some drinkers to experience the pucker one might equate with something being sour. However, Dornish Sour Reds are not simply known for their sour taste, they are also known for being highly desirable and quite delicious. Said to be the opposite of Arbor Gold in sugar content, Dornish Sour Reds are balanced red wines that can be found in the flagons of the ruling and merchant classes alike.
The perfect real world equivalent to this wine is Nebbiolo, which is grown in Piedmont, Italy. The climate doesn’t match, but the wines do, particularly the high-end wines made from the grape, Barolo and Barbaresco, known as the wines of kings and queens — perfect for Dorne’s ruling Martell family, who style themselves princes and princesses though they rule no longer rule an independent kingdom. The wines produced from the Nebbiolo grape are uniquely delicious in their flavor profile, smelling of roses and violets and accompanying all manner of dishes, especially when those dishes also include truffles!
While the finest Barolos and Barbarescos are aged for months to years in oak and bottle, and fetch prices to match that sort of investment, younger tannic wines made with Nebbiolo can be had for a fraction of those prices. These younger wines were the sour reds from Dorne that were available in the winesinks of Westeros, while Barolos and Barbarescos were treasured by the highest of the highborns.
Strongwine from Dorne – Port
Another sweet wine, “the taste of it is languorous and heady on the tongue, the color purple so dark it looks almost black in the dim-lit cellar.”
Port, the fortified wine from Portugal, is the ideal real world equivalent. The sweet and viscous wine would produce the same description that R.R. Martin writes to describe his Strongwine, and it is often stored in the same manner, making it the perfect equivalent. Alcohol content can rise to 20% or higher in Port, certainly qualifying it as a Strongwine.
Sweet Reds From The Reach – California Jug Wine
High quality dry, fruity reds are made in the Reach — most of them grown off the coast on the Arbor — but the vast majority of the sweet red wines here are lower in quality. The land tilled by the peasants of the Reach is the most fertile in all of Westeros, but great wine typically comes from land that is sub-fertile, as vines under stress produce the best grapes. The fertile lands of the reach most likely produce over-ripe grapes — particularly during long summers — that result in a fruity, sugary wine that is high in alcohol. These wines are not highly regarded by the upper classes, but they get the job done when it comes to helping to take the edge off of a long day of servitude.
California Jug wine is made from grapes grown in the more fertile areas of California, particularly the Central Valley, where the grapes grow easily and produce a sugary juice perfect for mass production. Cheap and affordable wines, while they’re nothing to write home about, they get the job done, if that job is just to relax after a long day.
Header image via HBO