May 7, 2019
By Regis Duvignau
VIGNONET, France (Reuters) – Winemaker Thibault Bardet is such a fan of “Game of Thrones” that he decided to make a wine as close as possible to Dornish, the wine favored by the dwindling number of Lannisters, Starks, Baratheons and Targaryens the HBO series hasn’t killed off yet.
Dornish wine, of course, is an imaginary product of fictional Dorne in the mythical continent of Westeros. In other words, Berdet didn’t have much to go on. But at least nobody was around to dispute what Dornish tasted like.
He began making his version in 2016, using Merlot grapes from his vineyards in Bordeaux. Through trial and error, he came up with “The Imp’s Delight” and “Dornish Wine” — both deep-red, full-bodied wines, the former honoring Tyrion Lannister, a dedicated drinker.
No one may have been around to dispute whether it tasted like real Dornish, but somebody was around to dispute his right to make it. After he had produced some 30,000 bottles, Bardet got a gently worded letter from HBO asking him to stop.
“It’s true that I kind of use the code of their universe,” Bardet said. He’d spent hours trawling the novels by George R. R. Martin that inspired “Game of Thrones”, studying made-up maps of the fantasy land where the epic takes place, trying to imagine what sort of wine it would produce.
“My goal was to make a wine that was really from Dorne,” Bardet told Reuters at his vineyard in Vignonet, a village south of Saint-Emilion, in the heart of the famed wine-growing region.
“I knew it was important that it should have lots of spice flavors,” said Bardet, who hails from a family of winemakers. “It’s an intense color, like dark blood … It’s fruity, strong and full-bodied, yet very drinkable.”
Bardet said he’ll be happy to comply with HBO’s letter. HBO had rather generously said it didn’t mind if he sold his existing stock, so long as he didn’t keep making the wine.
Representatives of HBO were not immediately reachable for comment.
“Game of Thrones” conclude its blockbuster run on May 19, 2019, after eight seasons. It’s attracted a passionate following around the world, leading to lucrative merchandising and product tie-ins for the creators. Among them is HBO’s own licensed “Game of Thrones” wines, produced by American winemaker Bob Cabral.
Bardet, whose “Imp’s Delight” has earned 3.7 out of 5 stars on some wine websites, said his dream was to have his creation tasted by George Martin and ask him, “So what do you think? Did you imagine the same?”
(Additional reporting by Michaela Cabrera and Jeevan Ravindran; writing by Luke Baker; editing by Larry King)