Courtesy of Empire Distributors
Note: This post is full of spoilers. If you’ve been living under a rock since 1977, just scan the story for the wines (in italics) and get outta here.
For those reliving George Lucas’s galactic world for the second, third, or 100th time, here’s to a weekend bender before the big day. For help with pairings, I called Eric Crane, an advanced sommelier who works at Empire Distributors (cue the Imperial March). He’s one of the nerdier wine Jedis I know. Case in point: “When my son was born, and I was sitting there holding this baby, I turned on Episode I to start the indoctrination process early,” he said. (See? Total nerd.)
While plenty of die-hard fans insist on watching these movies in the order they were released (starting with Episode IV, which came out in 1977), Crane suggests watching them in chronological order for the sake of plot development—and because, let’s face it, going from Harrison Ford to Hayden Christensen would only be a letdown.
Another word of advice: Wine always tastes better with company so don’t open these bottles—two for each movie—alone. Instead, round up the troops, pop the corks, and order some pizza. That’s what Jabba the Hutt would do.
Unless otherwise noted, all wines are available at Tower Beer, Wine & Spirits on Piedmont.
Episode I: The Phantom Menace
First pour: 2014 Markham Chardonnay, Napa Valley, $16.99
The first half of this movie is likely the worst hour in Star Wars cinema history. We meet the Trade Federation, who have outrageous Asian accents. We meet Jar Jar Binks—who should not exist in any galaxy—plus a whole bunch of other characters less convincing than puppet Yoda. Despite all of the flaws, though, it’s still enjoyable. “You know you love it, but everyone tells you not to like it as much as you do. We’re talking about both Episode I and California Chardonnay,” Crane says.
Second pour: 2013 Two Hands Gnarly Dudes, Barossa Shiraz, $28.99
The movie takes a dark turn in the second half, with the return of the Sith and the death of Qui-Gon Jinn. The perfect pairing: a red from another underappreciated wine region. “Like California Chardonnay, it’s not cool to like Australian Shiraz, but man, it’s so good,” Crane says. “Just like the end of the movie, it’s dark and rich and powerful.”
Episode II: Attack of the Clones
First pour: 2012 Banfi Chianti Classico, $12.99
A coy Anakin Skywalker has matured into a strong, attractive Jedi, feeling all sorts of forces for Queen Amidala. While their love story unfolds, Obi-Wan Kenobi discovers the clone army. “You need something with a bit of class and dignity, with just enough tannins and acidity to get your mind working,” Crane says.
Second pour: 2010 Sartori Amarone della Valpolecella, $39.99
Ramp up the intensity for the second half of the film, when Anakin loses his mother, and massacres a village of sand people. The Battle of Geonosis, Samuel L. Jackson with a purple lightsaber, and Yoda fighting for the first time on screen collectively call for a wine “that’s going to rip your head off.”
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
First pour: 2014 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, $25.99
The opening battle is pure George Lucas psychedelia, with more lasers, ships, and mass chaos onscreen than ever before. To match the hurricane-like first half, Crane suggests a powerful, in-your-face pour ripping with notes of grapefruit, passion fruit, green apple, and lime.
Second pour: 2013 Altos Las Hormigas Malbec, Mendoza, $11.99
The last half of Revenge of the Sith is unfiltered depression. Anakin officially loses his mind, and Emperor Palpatine wipes out most of the Jedi. “You want something with power, saturation, and punch, “ Crane says.
Episode IV: A New Hope
First pour: Louis Roederer Brut Premier, NV, $41.97
Meet Luke Skywalker, the one who will bring balance to the Force. To celebrate a brighter future (and better acting), uncork the Champagne. “The laws of Champagne were written in 1941. It was a time of war and political strife as the French were getting kicked in the face by the Nazis. The fact that these laws mattered to them then says so much. And look, in the movie, the rebel forces are trying to restore order to the galaxy, despite being surrounded by evil,” Crane says.
Second pour: 2012 Bethel Heights Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $27 at Green’s on Ponce
In the film’s second half, a group of rebels (including Chewbacca) manage to destroy the Death Star. It’s an unexpected, near miraculous victory that reminds Crane of Oregon, which went from being a no-name wine region in the 1970s to a Pinot Noir powerhouse today. Crane, who attended seven Phish concerts this year alone, adds that Oregon also gets slagged for being full of hippies. “The modern day name for a hippie is Wookie,” he says.
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
First pour: 2009 Marques de Murrieta Rioja Reserva, $23 at VinoTeca
The Battle of Hoth is a cold one, set on a planet made of snow. “Think warm thoughts,” says Crane. He recommends this Spanish Rioja, which “on the coldest of days, tastes like sunlight.”
Second pour: 2010 Pio Cesare Barbaresco, $65 at Green’s on Ponce
Luke’s story grows more complicated. He begins his training with Yoda, only to leave early to save his friends, now held hostage in Cloud City by Darth Vader. Luke later loses his hand, finds out who is father is, and learns that Leia is his sister. “This movie ends with so much in turmoil,” Crane says. “You need a wine that is a complete assault on the senses, something that just rips your face apart. Nebbiolo is one of the most powerful grapes of all time with super high acid and big tannins.”
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
First pour: Domaine Schlumberger Pinot Gris, 2013, $19.99
Return of the Jedi starts on sandy Tatooine where we meet Jabba the Hut, a crime boss shaped like a massive lobe of foie gras. “You need something that’s quenchy, something a little bit sweet without being sugary,” says Crane. The grapes in this Alsatian Pinot Gris are intentionally infected with botrytis, a type of fungus associated with dessert wine. “Luke is going black the entire time. There’s something just a little bit corrupt about him from the very beginning.
Second pour: Viewer’s choice
For this final wine, Crane thought it would be wrong to try to suggest one bottle that wraps up the series. “I think everybody still gets chills watching that final lightsaber battle. It’s so powerful and dramatic,” Crane says. So, what does one drink? “Everybody has at their home that one bottle of wine—the one they’ve been saving for a special occasion. Now’s the time to open it.”