My first day at SXSW was a chilly and drizzly beat. The streets of Austin —usually packed like sardines with convention goers and sightseers— were less polluted than usual, leaving just the odd weather-brave individual darting in and out of the convention center in search of a place to recharge their phone. The festival was only just getting started, though, and aside from the grim weather, the energy of the city was palpable.
One of my first stops was for the HBO® Game of Thrones wine tasting. Yes, friends, GoT wine is now a thing. As part of the event in which the network was premiering several seasons of shows such as Beat, Silicon Valley, and (of course) Game of Thrones, a little bit of vino had been thrown into the mix, and I couldn't have been happier about it.
Essentially, Vintage Wine Estates (including acclaimed winemaker Bob Cabral) and HBO have combined their collective creative process to bring about a set of exclusive Game of Thrones-inspired wines. The collection includes a special Red Blend, a Chardonnay, and a Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. And get this — each one is designed to embody various sets of characters from the show itself.
“I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan, and these wines capture the complexity of the drama,” said Cabral. “But the wines also have pedigree. We source grapes from premier vineyard sites and use the finest winemaking techniques to create wines of incredible richness and texture.”
Upon approaching the wine tasting bar, I couldn't help but notice the gorgeous, gold-enameled labeling and decadent marketing surrounding the line. I'm a sucker for a beautiful wine label, but there was something different about this marketing, something special that I, as an avid fan of the series, was drawn to — they have three specially emblazoned corks that actually play in to various aspects of the mythology.
I had to know more about this genius idea. After quickly sampling a bit of the Red Blend I was able to speak with the Vice President of Marketing, Lesley Larson, about the brand and what their intentions were behind it.
“We decided upon the three blends upon the overall popularity of these varietals. These were varietals we felt we could represent the lifestyles of the fans of Game of Thrones most accurately,” said Larson. “These wines are designed to invoke an image of what the characters are eating and drinking, depending on who you are interested in. The Red Blend is a perfect match for a pairing with game or foul as you might have noticed there is a bit of spice in it.”
She continued, “It is a true honor to be making a wine that is associated with Game of Thrones. Wine is a story in a bottle so we want to continue the story through these varietals – to transport fans just a little bit closer in their living rooms to the story they so love.”
As for my personal takes on the two wines at this special debut event, the Red Blend is for a true red wine drinker. It presents itself at first on the drier side, but once it begins to breathe, you begin to assess the true notes of Allspice and cherry, as well as a bit of juniper and tobacco, which, while it may sound strange, is actually lovely to the palette. And trust me, that's coming from a person who is very picky about red wines.
The Chardonnay, however, is beyond compare in my opinion. Not to give my affinity for wine away, but I do admit that I drink quite a bit of white. And while almost 99% of the time I will take anything over a Chardonnay, the Game of Thrones Chardonnay has made me convert. It's gorgeously bright and celebratory, with notes of cantaloupe, grapefruit, and just the perfect hint of that tell-tale buttery undertone. As another patron said so wisely, it's best enjoyed “while watching your foes being defeated on the battlefield."
Currently the Game of Thrones collection is available online and will be available worldwide beginning April 1st, 2017.