Tyrion Lannister’s self-admitted source of wisdom is liquor — “That’s what I do. I drink and I know things.” His unabashed love for liquor is atleast one characteristic he shares with his sister, Queen Cersei.
As all of us watching the series know, wine is the by far the most preferred drink in Westeros closely followed by ale (beer). GoT loves its wine so much that it was part of crucial plot point — remember Joffrey’s wedding and the ‘strangler’.
In part 1 of this series, we cover Wines in the GoT Universe with certain extracts from the book “A Song of Ice and Fire”. #GameOfThrones
- Arbor Gold | White Wine
Arbor, an island off the southernmost part of Westeros, is place for preparation of this wine. Ruled by House Redwyne which is said to make most of its riches from Arbor Gold.
Described as being rich and fruity, the white wine slowly transforms its color into golden yellow as it ages. It is described as similar to a modern-day dessert wine due to its sweetness. George R R Martin, in an interview, mentioned that in Medieval Europe (on which he has based his universe) sweet wines were the most sought after and thus the royal and elite patronage for the Arbor Gold.
Considered by many as the finest wine in Westeros, Arbor Gold is definitely the most expensive one. The book mentions a commoner selling his kid for a jug of Arbor Gold 😉 — so yeah it is expensive and sought after. It finds mention in royal functions / celebrations and when the high lords are trying to cook up an alliance. Often used by LittleFinger in his diplomatic pursuits as he whispers to Sansa — “You see the wonders than can be worked with lies and Arbor Gold”.
There is much debate about the Arbor Gold’s modern-day equivalent. However, Sauternes — the dessert wine from the Bordeaux of France comes close due to its golden hue, rich and sweet taste. Some even suggest that it was Napolean favoured choice of drink.
2. Dornish Reds | Red Wine
The Dornish Reds have two prominent variation — Dornish Sour and Strongwine. Both are native to Dorne — the southernmost peninsula of Westeros. It encounters the hottest climate in Westeros and is culturally very different than other part of Westeros. Its tropical climate is most conducive for wine making. This difference is clearly reflected in their wine preferences.
Dornish Sour Reds have strong acidity and balance with minimal sugar content. Much richer in texture than other red wine and is a strong favourite among noblemen and merchants. Considered one of the best wine and by far the best red wine in Westeros.
Strongwine is another variant which is rather sweet but having a high percentage of alcohol. Its color is strong purple and its looks almost black in wine cellar. Port Wine from Portugal comes quite close to the description of Strongwine from Dorne.
3. Arbor Red | Red Wine
The Arbor region of Westeros also produces, both sweet and dry red wines. Arbor Red is by default choice of high-born in Westeros who prefer a milder tasting wine than the acidity of the Dornish Red.
The red wine you see Cersei drinking in every GoT episode is the Arbor Red and is the most common accompaniment along with food in Westeros for the High Born. It’s much milder in taste and potency than what Dornish people would like who often describe it as Red Water.
It has taken its place dominantly as the favoured tool for assassination — the attempt on Daenerys in Season 1 (wine merchant poisoning her Arbor Red) or the successful assassination of King Joffrey.
The modern-day equivalent can be thought of as a Chardonnay or the Italian Nebbiolo Red, similar in taste and color.
4. Sweet Red from the Reach | Red Wine
Reach, one of the largest regions after the North, is home to fertile plains and considered to Food capital of Westeros. Ruled by House Tyrell of Highgarden, the region is known for its high quality fruits and vegetables.
Sweet Red is supposed to be the most economical of wines available in Westeros. Apart from Ale, this wine is the popular in bars and taverns in Westeros. Not highly regarded in the upper echelons of the society, this wine would surely get the job done. Tyrion famously reserves this only during his antics in brothels of Westeros. Modern equivalent of these maybe the cheaper wines from US which are affordable such California Jug wines.
Hippocras, typically made by mixing wine with sugar and spices (cinnamon) is specialty of Highgarden. However, like other things from Highgarden, Queen Cersei does not think much of the drink — “A man may prefer the taste of hippocras, yet if you set a tankard of ale before him, he will quaff it quick enough”.
5. Northern Wine
As you can tell, most of the wine produced is in southern Westeros as the climate is conducive for production. Most of the northerners drink these southern wines. It is said that the Riverlands produce some half decent drinkable wine — but it is the last resort. The brothers on the Watch drink hot mulled wine spiced with cloves and nutmeg — not great but hey Wun Wun the giant, as per the books, is addicted to this.
While major wine variants in Westeros is covered in this article, Essos features another range of delectable wines. The wines in these free cities would be covered in another part of the article series.
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