Thursday 17 October 2019

Wine in Succession – Power meets Pinot Noir

If you ever needed a lesson in the social signalling of wine, Succession has provided it. The Netflix HBO drama, following the maneouverings and manipulations of the rich and powerful Roy dynasty, has featured wine across both of its seasons so far – as a revealing backdrop to the behaviour of the impossibly rich.

Because despite what we are often told about the sobriety of successful Americans, the Roys certainly seem to pile into their wine. There’s none of that abstemious drinking of water or iced tea. Indeed, one of the ways in which a putative CEO, Rhea, an outsider, was crushed by the Roy siblings, was when a waiter was halted from topping up her champagne glass with a cry of “No! She doesn’t drink!”

The irritated look from magnate Logan Roy said it all. Expensive wine is one of ‘the King’s favours’. “Look at the fucking wine I’m serving you!” he once berated a recalcitrant banker. “I’m fucking wining and dining you!”

But is that wine, like so much else in the Roy lifestyle, ultimately about the money?  Marcia, Logan’s third wife, savoured the French wine at a patrician family’s dinner; asking the waiter for more, she grumbled that her husband’s cellar is “all New World, so it doesn’t suit me”. Surely the ultimate putdown of a nouveau riche? Or, as Time put it, “a first class burn for the one percent set”.

Logan’s son Kendall, in an adulatory rap, praises his father’s “A1 rating, 80k wine”. But what kind of connoisseur spends $80,000 on New World wine?

And Logan’s eldest son Connor “hyperdecants” his Burgundy – which means putting it into his kitchen blender. “I hyperdecant,” he declares proudly. “You don’t hyperdecant? You’re just doing regular decanting?”

(This process was “invented” by Nathan Myhrvold, formerly of Microsoft, a man who also, presumably, has more money than time, and better Burgundy than you or I. Wielding his blender jug, Connor claims that “it softens the tannins, ages the aromas. You can age your wines five years in ten seconds, truly.” Which shows that wealth and wisdom do not necessarily go hand in hand.)

In the first season’s finale, the ‘wining and dining’ came to an abrupt end for one character, as Tom forced his bride’s former lover, Nate, to pour his glass of banquet wine back into the bottle. What better signalling of banishment from the kingdom?

And this week’s season finale did not disappoint with its wine moments. There was former country Cousin Greg, sunbathing on the family’s yacht, the wine in his ice bucket illustrating his final ascent from distant relative to inner family status. “What are you drinking, Greg?” Tom asks him.

“This is…I’m not sure…it’s a rosé…it’s not my favourite.”

“What?” Tom exclaims, “You’ve got a favourite champagne now?”

“Well,” says Greg, “You can’t help noticing…it’s fine, I’ll drink it. But it’s not my favourite.” Welcome to the family.

In which Connor Roy, asked by a waitress what he would like to drink with breakfast, replies “I will take a full bottle of Burgundy please, thank you.”

“For breakfast?” queries his anxious partner, Willa. Was it the Burgundy she was concerned about – or the “full bottle”?

“Well yes,” Connor replies. “For breakfast. Why not?” And who will gainsay him? At least he didn’t ask for it to be hyperdecanted.

Over the two fabulous seasons to date, it was of course an English woman, Lady Caroline, who used wine to deliver the perfect social putdown. For if the English know anything about the super rich, it’s that money can buy them wine, but not class. “So kind of your parents to have paid for all this delicious wine,” she says to future son-in-law Tom at his wedding rehearsal.

“So clever the way they’re letting every single person know.”


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