Wine and Succession: A Relationship as Fucked Up as Any in the Roy Family

Words: Shamim de Brún
Images: HBO

In the world of HBO’s hit series “Succession,” power, money, and family dynamics collide in a whirlwind of scandals, backstabbing, and lavish lifestyles. And amidst all the chaos, one thing remains a constant: wine. The Roy family, led by the once formidable CEO Logan Roy, often found solace and tension release in the form of a glass of red, white, or sparkling.

 “Succession” have cleverly used wine to portray the rotten nature of the Roy family. And on a grander scale, the corruptive quality of power and money.

Wine in “Succession” is more than just a prop to enhance the characters’ relaxation. It serves as a metaphor, a weapon, and a tool to navigate the treacherous waters of the Roy family dynamics. From the infamous hyperdecanting Burgundy to using wine to cut ties and take down enemies, here’s a guide to the twisted relationship between wine and succession in the Roy family.

Stewy Hosseini: “Brother, we are putting together a hostile takeover of one of the largest media corporations in the world. I think we can brave some non-vintage Champagne.” Nonvintage Champagne is just bog-standard Champagne. Every champagne you’ve heard of is non-vintage. The Vintage ones are the ones you’d associate with musicians. Think Cristal and Dom Perignon. The vintage shit is the expensive one. Non-vintage means that the bottle is not dated with a single year in which all the grapes were harvested. Champagne houses regularly employ multi-vintage blends to get a consistent style from year-to-year. To dismiss most Champagne as only drinkable in dire circumstances rates pretty highly on the snobbery scale. It reveals generational wealth seeping out of their pores. 

Wine is the ultimate symbol of wealth. You can pass in and even be revered in certain spheres of wealth if you actually know wine, even if you have no money. It’s a long-standing symbol of elegance and the kind of class new money can’t buy. It’s so incredibly arcane sometimes that for generations, it has been reserved as purely the domain of the wealthy. So when Tom takes Cousin Greg out to show him how to be rich, essentially, it’s the wine that gives Greg away. “How come the wine list doesn’t have any prices?” Greg asks. “Because they’re obscene,” Tom responds. Wine prices go off the wall quickly. In all likelihood, Greg was looking at a page full of Petrus, Screaming Eagle, and Cheval Blanc. All legacy brands that start over a grand a pop. He never had a hope.

The scene in Season 2 where Connor Roy demonstrates hyperdecanting perfectly encapsulates the show’s themes. Pouring wine into a blender to soften tannins and age the aromas is a display of wealth and cluelessness. It also shows his susceptibility to being influenced. Only people who believe everything they read on TikTok believe in hyperdecanting. It highlights the stark contrast between the rich and the rest, emphasising that money doesn’t necessarily bring class or culture. Connor’s choice to treat an expensive bottle of Burgundy like a mere kitchen experiment reflects his own detachment from reality. Basically, the fact that he believes in hyperdecanting as a thing shows that he is delusional as shit. 

Wine is also wielded as a weapon in “Succession.” Whenever it appears, it signals an impending drama. As soon as you see them quaffing, you know shit is going to go down. Red Wedding level shit. From firing loyal employees over glasses of red, white, or bubbly to using extravagant gestures to undermine rivals, the Roy family knows the power of wine. The label matters when the stakes are high. Serving the good stuff can undermine the resolve of adversaries, even if they don’t partake.

But wine in “Succession” is not just about power moves and manipulation. It also reveals the characters’ personalities and desires. Shiv, the princess of the Roy family, reaches for white wine when contemplating adultery. It becomes her go-to companion before engaging in affairs and hook-ups. The choice of wine reflects the nature of her actions and adds depth to her character. It’s also the total opposite to the wine made by the vineyard she and Tom own together, which further distances her from the marriage that gives her nothing. 

The way characters talk about wine sheds light on their true selves. Tom’s self-worth is inextricably tied to fine wine. He not only drinks and pontificates on the stuff, but he uses it to define who he is. He uses it as a way to categorise people and assert his superiority. Tom’s snobbishness and obsession with status are exposed when he reacts negatively to a bottle of wine with a screw cap. His disdain for the wine’s “funk” and the need to “meet it halfway” reveal his desire for something more traditional and conventional. Natty Wine Bros would call him a Wino-saur. It’s a dig at what is currently trendy and what young, not rich people drink.

Taste in wine is used as an insult. There can be nothing more dismissive than calling someone a weekend malbec moron like Tom does in Season 4 Episode 7. This is basically saying they’re basic and go with whatever is popular for literally no reason. It’s dismissive and undermining. Like literally everything Tom does. 

If you circle back to the Spätburgunder (the German word for Pinot Noir), we see Tom gleefully putting a glass of the wine he hates into the hand of his romantic rival. To him, this is a snide victory of sorts. A subtle negging jab like saying, ‘you look good for your age’. 

Tom Wambsgans: “It’s the kind of wine that separates the connoisseurs from the weekend Malbec morons.“

In the twisted world of “Succession,” wine becomes a means of asserting dominance, expressing desires, and revealing true intentions. It reflects the characters’ flaws, twisted relationships, and the corruptive influence of power and money.

As we eagerly anticipate the drama that the final episode of “Succession” promises, we can expect wine to continue playing a prominent role.

So, as you raise a glass of wine while watching “Succession,” remember that you will literally never be able to afford the kind of wine that they will respect so lean into the malbec moron and thank Baccus that you are nothing like the Roy’s.