Jean-Luc Picard left his family business of making wine to explore space. I can relate. Though I waited tables and poured many bottles of wine for many years, I too left the business of serving wine to become a writer. But, one thing I learned from working around wine people in New York City restaurants for over a decade is that wine people are a lot like Trekkies. There’s a lot of varietals of wine, and schools-of-thought about wine, and ways in which people debate about wine. This, of course, is just like Star Trek, and the various series and endless ways of talking about the expansive franchise. Though there a seemingly limitless permutations, it’s all wine, just like even the most disparate elements of the final frontier is all united by being... Star Trek.
And so, because the newest Star Trek series — Star Trek: Picard — will bring us back to the wine vineyards of Jean-Luc’s family it’s time to mash-up some wine with some Trek. Based on my own experiences with wine, and thoughts about each specific Star Trek series, I’ve prepared a wine pairing for each of the seven live-action Star Trek shows, including Picard. These suggestions are based not just on taste, but also how the attitude of the wine reflects each Trek series. Of course, you don’t have to drink the wines I’m recommending with each of these specific series, but hopefully you’ll find the selections... fascinating.
Star Trek: The Original Series — Merlot
There’s a line in the 2002 movie Sideways in which Paul Giamatti says he will not, under any circumstances, drink Merlot. Now, this is given Merlot a little bit of a bad rap, because some might say it’s a simple wine or that it’s too broad of a category to really be a great wine. But the reality is, Merlot can mean a lot of different things, which is exactly like the original Star Trek.
For many of us, it’s a safe bet that Merlot was our first glass of wine, and just like the original Star Trek, Merlot can be excellent or it can be just fine. Everyone knows “City on the Edge of Forever” is a classic. That episode is some high end Merlot; it’s medium bodied, smooth, but it packs a punch and reminds that you are drinking wine. That’s the great thing about even a bottom shelf Merlot, or perhaps, a random episode of the original Star Trek, like say, “The Cloud Minders.” It always has the ability to grab you by the lapels and remind you that you’re having a fun, energetic glass of wine. People wouldn’t like wine without the existence and versatility of Merlot. And Star Trek, in all of its infinite combinations wouldn't exist without TOS. If you want a good Merlot, that is also a little fancy, but won’t break the bank, the Coppola family does a pretty good job.
Oh, and by the way, in real life, Paul Giamatti does drink Merlot and his favorite Star Trek is The Original Series. I know this because I poured him a glass of Merlot once as a waiter, and talked to him about science fiction. It was great. I hope he remembers it.
Star Trek: The Next Generation — Sancerre (Sauvignon Blanc)
It’s tempting to say that the best wine to drink with an episode of TNG is a red wine. But, there’s a coziness to the vast majority of the adventures of the Enterprise-D that make it seem like it’s best to have a buttery white wine while watching. A big French red might define Captain Picard specifically (we’ll get to that in a second) but TNG is about more than just Jean-Luc; it’s about the ensemble. And the one wine I can see every TNG crew member enjoying, together, on a regular basis is Sancerre. Overwhelming Sancerre is French white (points for Jean-Luc) that is made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape varietal. Some will tell you that Sauvignon Blanc is “grassy” but I think the best Sauvignon Blancs, like a good Sancerre, are more complicated than one flavor. These are the sorts of wines that get better as you drink the glass.
The Next Generation, somewhat famously, went through a lot of changes in its first couple seasons, and certainly got better as it went along. Back in the ‘90s, you never might have thought it would go on to become more popular than the original series, but, then again, some people have no idea that Sancerre might end up being their favorite type of white wine. For a mid-ranged bottle try the Jean Reverdy et Fils Sancerre. Like Picard’s family, these people have been making wine for generations.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine — Nero d'Avola
When you think of Deep Space Nine, the word “ sophisticated” comes to mind, which is why I think you need a spicy Italian red. Deep Space Nine is unique because it blends the formality of the TNG era with a slightly more rock-and-roll vibe that, in some ways, wasn’t recreated in Trek until Discovery. For that reason, a Sicilian red like Nero d'Avola is the perfect wine for DS9. Like the titular space station itself, Sicily is an island, meaning the ecosystem that sustains these wines can’t really be recreated anywhere else.
Nero d'Avola is unique to Sicily, and the best bottles of these wines that I’ve had always have a little bit of a spice or a kick to them. I could easily see Quark pouring a bottle of Nero d'Avola in his bar on the Promenade, but I can also imagine Sisko uncorking some in his quarters with Cassidy Yates. Nero d'Avola is has a specific character, one that you can’t find anywhere in the world, or the galaxy. In my opinion an expensive Nero d'Avola is just as good as a cheaper one. For me, the Firriato Chiaramonte Nero d'Avola is perfect.
Star Trek: Voyager — Pinot Grigio
When I waited tables in New York City, one thing I learned is that one somebody ordered a Pinot Grigio, you were always dealing with people who knew what they liked and didn’t need to be bothered will the frills or details of having a more complicated order. This makes ordering Pinot Grigio exactly like Captain Janeway ordering “coffee, black” on Star Trek: Voyager. A light-to-medium white wine, Pinot Grigio is the black coffee of wines, not because it tastes anything like black coffee, but because it is simple and reliable.
Now, to be clear, I’m not saying Janeway wouldn’t drink a full-bodied red, or even dessert wine from time to time. It’s just that there’s a no-nonsense reliability to Pinot Grigio. You can get a good bottle of Pinot Grigio pretty much anywhere, but if you want a bottle that’s pretty inexpensive, grab the Zenato. Just like Janeway, Pinot Grigio gets the job done.
Star Trek: Enterprise — Riesling
The prequel series Enterprise is sometimes underestimated, which is why it pairs perfectly with the similarly underestimated white wine varietal, Riesling. The Riesling is thought to originate in the Rhine region of Europe, but it can grow in all sorts of places. The taste of Riesling is often a product of its terroir; the climate where the wine is grown. Because Enterprise is all about the beginnings of Starfleet setting foot on strange, new worlds, this is appropriate. Some Rieslings are sweet, and some boast a chalkier minerality. A sweet Riesling like Chateau Ste. Michelle makes sense for an episode like “Carbon Creek.” But if you’re watching “In a Mirror, Darkly,” you’ve got to go with something a little drier like a Dutton-Goldfield.
Star Trek: Discovery — Sparkling Rosé
Although there’s an earnestness to Star Trek: Discovery echoing the sophistication of Deep Space Nine and The Next Generation, Discovery has a major celebratory vibe that revels in the bombastic roots of The Original Series. So, while it's true that Captain Georgiou kept a bottle of Chateau Picard (sometimes a Bordeaux, sometimes a Bourgogne) in her ready room on the USS Shenzhou, you can’t really imagine Tilly and Burnham ordering a bottle of serious red to unwind. Let’s face it, the type bottle of that Tilly, Burnham, Stamets, and even Pike can all agree on is sparkling rosé.
Rosé can come from nearly any grape varietal, but because Discovery moves fast, you need an easy to drink, exciting sparkling rosé. Some people think all rosés are sweet, which obviously isn’t true. In fact, because there’s so much variety in the universe of sparkling rosés it’s perfect for Discovery. Watching an action-packed episode like “Battle at the Binary Stars?” You probably want a somewhat standard sparkling rosé; something that has robust, big grapes like chardonnay blended with with pinot noir. The Veuve Clicquot Brut Rose is a good example of this. But, if you’re chilling with a more introspective episode like, say, “If Memory Serves,” you might want something a little sweeter, perhaps made with Grenache. A good example of that would be the Yes Way Rose Pink Sparkler.
Star Trek: Picard
Okay, so obviously, you should probably drink the Picard family wine when you watch Star Trek: Picard. But what is it? Interestingly, there are at least two different canonical blends of Château Picard. In the trailer for the series, it appears that Jean-Luc has a crate of Bourgogne, which is traditionally a blend that often features Pinot Noir. However, in movies like Star Trek: Nemesis, it appeared that Château Picard made a Bordeaux as well, which is a fairly broad category and can consist of all sorts of different grape varietals. And, if you wanted to drink the real red wine made at the real Château Picard, you can! It’s also a Bordeaux, and this blend is an 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 15 percent Merlot blend, according to the official wine-maker. You can buy the real Château Picard wine right here, which comes with a label that says it’s a 2386 vintage, but when you open it, you’ll notice “2017” on the actual cork.
Now, dear reader, though I have yet to see Star Trek: Picard, I can tell you, that I have had a bottle of the Château Picard Bordeaux, and it’s everything a red wine should be. It’s not a light-drinking wine by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not heavy on your tongue either. It’s good with a hearty meal, but it’s also surprisingly good with cookies. Like the legacy of Jean-Luc himself, this wine feels old-school without being too acidic. Sometimes old-school wines want you to feel like they’re really robust. The Château Picard is one of those red wines that is serious, but isn’t annoying or heavy. Its flavor is subtle and welcoming. This is wine that knows you’ll come back for more.
If you can’t get an actual bottle of Château Picard before January 23rd, that’s okay. Just make sure you’re drinking a big, bold French wine, preferably something that’s a blend of more than one big red grape. If you’re buying a bottle, that’s all you need to remember. Tell your wineseller you want it “Bold and French. Just like my captain.”
Ryan Britt's (he/him) essays and journalism have appeared in Tor.com, Inverse, Den of Geek!, SyFy Wire, and elsewhere. He is the author of the 2015 essay collection Luke Skywalker Can't Read. He lives in Portland, Maine, with his wife and daughter.
Star Trek: Picard will premiere exclusively on January 23 on CBS All Access in the United States, in Canada on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and OTT service Crave, and on January 24 Amazon Prime Video in more than 200 countries and territories.
Star Trek: Discovery streams exclusively on CBS All Access in the United States and is distributed concurrently by CBS Studios International on Netflix in 188 countries and in Canada on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and OTT service Crave.