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What the wines in Succession reveal about the Roys

Drink deep: wine features throughout, even though the Roys are only rarely pictured eating  (HBO)
Drink deep: wine features throughout, even though the Roys are only rarely pictured eating (HBO)

If you have enough power and wealth to get pretty much whatever wine you want, what do you buy?

From $80,000 wine to “Malbec morons”, cheap Prosecco to biodynamic Spätburgunder, wine punctuates every meeting, incites every infidelity, and underpins every interaction of HBO’s Succession. The Roys barely eat on camera — the calamari cockring notwithstanding — but wine is splashed absolutely everywhere. Throughout, it’s used to portray both the opulent and ugly sides of the Roys’ wealth.

To the family, consuming fine wine is an ordinary, day-to-day thing; so usual that they don’t notice it, like having a fully-stocked fridge of La Croix or a fleet of Cadillac Escalades. Where for the average drinker, the celebratory opening of a special bottle is designated for life’s important moments, the Roys drink fine wine so often, any sense of celebration is abstracted into something meaningless. Every meeting, deal and misguided presidential candidacy is peppered with bubbles. Everything is a celebration, which means nothing is. Then again, for people like the Roys, no matter how hard life gets for the rest of us, there will always be something to celebrate.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that a story about the trappings of inordinate wealth features fine wine, but there’s an awful lot of drinking for a show where the future of a media dynasty pirouettes on a knife edge. In short? They’re nearly always half-cut on the job. And, just as with everything the family wears, every bottle opened and every glass swirled reveals something telling about the family. Ahead of the show’s finale, here are four of the most significant liquid moments from across the series.

Connor’s hyper-decanted Burgundy

 (HBO)
(HBO)

One of the most recognisable wine moments from Succession is Connor’s misguided hyper-decanting scene. He offers Shiv a blender of liquid, which she mistakes for a smoothie.

“It’s Burgundy”, Connor says matter-of-factly, before openly mocking her: “I hyper-decant. You don’t hyper-decant? You’re just doing regular decanting?”

It’s a scene that tells us everything we need to know about Connor, and the rest of the Roys too — namely, that money can buy you wine, but it can’t buy class. Connor Roy isn’t used to waiting to get what he wants: why slog away for years as a senator when you can essentially buy a presidential campaign? And in that same vein, why wait another few years to let your Burgundy age when you can age it “five years in ten seconds”? (Connor’s words, and wrong to boot.)

Kendall and Rava’s 1996 Pingus

 (HBO)
(HBO)

Succession is as much about excess and waste as it is about opulence. In the first episode of season three, just days after Kendall’s shocking betrayal, he sets up a makeshift office at the home of his ex-wife. And, for the time being, the perennially goofy cousin Greg is working alongside him. Characteristically, he opens the wrong bottle of wine. It was a gift from Rava’s godfather, now opened, mingling with the oxygen of the hot, nervous room. It’s an incredibly tense moment, even more so when you know a little bit about the wine.

The opened bottle has been identified online as a 1996 wine from Dominio de Pingus, a sainted winery located in the Spanish region of Ribera del Duero. Dominio de Pingus was only started a year earlier in 1995, but the whole of that vintage was lost at sea after a cargo accident, meaning the 1996, the second-ever vintage, is a seriously rare, even legendary wine. Rava, more than a little miffed, eventually shrugs it off.

“It’s like when someone breaks something beautiful,” she says. “It reminds you that nothing lasts.” It seems she may be the only one who appreciates the special, rare moments that wine affords. Which is handy, given a bottle will set you back somewhere in the region of £1,000.

Shiv and Tom’s natural Spätburgunder

 (HBO)
(HBO)

“It’s not very nice, is it, the wine, Shiv?”

Succession’s not-so-subtle dig at natural wine was a much-loved scene for the industry, whether it affirmed personally held beliefs or playfully poked fun at the sensibilities of the natty brigade. In the scene, Tom and Shiv receive the Spätburgunder (German Pinot Noir) from their vineyard, a needlessly opulent wedding gift. They sniff at the screw cap closure and wrinkle their noses at the “agricultural” bouquet. While the wine is a clear analogy of their rapidly spiralling marriage, it could also be an indicator of the narrow-mindedness of the über-rich. “Open-minded” is probably not a word that features in Succession’s ludicrously capacious dictionary (see: slime puppy); rather, they want wine to signal their affluence. They want luxury for the sake of luxury, which means the inordinately expensive wines of the Old World (Marcia in particular despises Logan’s New World collection). A biodynamic Spätburgunder doesn’t fit within this narrow expectation. The exact bottle was, unsurprisingly, not revealed. Although, let’s be honest, it’s not the worst thing Tom has swallowed.

The pre-election night party Champagne

 (hbo)
(hbo)

Second only to Tom, Connor is perhaps the member of the Waystar Royco dynasty who loves wine the most. In fact, nearly all the scenes which involve branded Champagne involve Connor. He sips the cult-favourite Champagne Jacquart at his schadenfreude-laden bachelor “party”; Veuve Clicquot sits on ice as he announces his presidential candidacy to his father; and Laurent Perrier lines the walls on his wedding day. So it only makes sense that Tom’s pre-election night party is stocked with a luxury cuvée. His choice? Piper Heidsieck: the Champagne of choice for both the Cannes Film Festival and the Oscars. Once again, the idea of affluence and status runs deep. We’d expect nothing less, although Tom does spend some time trying palm off last season’s Spätburgunder.