Back in 2019, (partly) in honor of the announcement of Star Trek: Picard, Ars staffers held an informal tasting session to sample two bottles of official Star Trek Wines, a collaboration between CBS Consumer Products and Wines That Rock. And the wines were…. far better than we expected, although very much over-priced.
Picard has now wrapped its second season, with a third currently in production, and the folks behind Star Trek Wines have expanded their collection from two varieties to six. So a second informal wine tasting was clearly in order. And who better to help us in this noble endeavor than Q himself—aka actor John de Lancie—and The Orville writer Andre Bormanis, who launched his career as a science advisor on TNG? They joined a fresh group of tasters (eight people in all) on a cool late spring evening in Los Angeles, where the nibbles were plentiful and the conversation flowed freely. (Wine assessments were anonymous, in keeping with the gathering’s super-casual vibe. And the wine was purchased out of pocket, not gifted for promotional purposes.)
Let’s start by revisiting the original two varieties. First up: a 2017 Sonoma Valley zinfandel, described as a blend of 87 percent zinfandel, blended with petite sirah and just a hint of syrah.. The packaging plays up the fictional connection, claiming the wine is produced under the United Federation Special Reserve Label, “blended by our intergalactic sommelier and designed to fit the palates of multiple planets.” (The back label tasting notes adds “Andalorian spice” to the description just for fun.)
The original Ars verdict back in 2019: “This is a fairly typical robust California zinfandel, light, smooth, and fruit forward. It’s young, with a fairly high alcohol content, and it pairs nicely with cheeses and charcuterie. As a bonus, the bottle design is terrific, even though clear glass is not conducive to long-term storage for wines. Drink the wine now and save the bottle if you’re keen on collectibles.” (I was less fond of this one, since I prefer dryer, less jammy wines.)
The Federal Reserve zinfandel received similar comments from our new group of tasters, many of whom also noted the fruit forward profile and soft finish. Those who like fruitier wines in general tended to like this zinfandel more than others. “Solid ‘Susie Second” bottle,” wrote one taster, while another called it a “pretty good zin—go, Federation!” But others noted an odd aftertaste and declared the wine “not good.”
Next up: a Bordeaux blend from Chateau Picard (although the label claims it’s a 2386 vintage to keep the conceit going): 85 percent cabernet and 15 percent merlot. As I noted at the time, this is a bona fide winery, with a centuries-old vineyard in the St.-Estephe region. It just so happens that Jean-Luc Picard’s family has long run a fictional vineyard of the same name, albeit in the Burgundy region rather than Bordeaux—it features prominently in Picard. The real winery agreed to collaborate on a special edition of their cru bourgeois vintage for the Star Trek collection.
Our 2019 verdict: “It’s a solid, tasty Bordeaux blend, dryer than the zinfandel, with a longer finish and more interesting spices, even if lacks that ‘Andalorian spice.’ It is, in short, quintessentially French, and proof that even in the 24th century, terroir still matters.”
The Bordeaux blend also came out on top with the 2022 tasting crew, who declared it “perfectly quaffable” and “surprisingly good.” The wine is light and dry, “easy on the palate,” with “a clean finish,” and fairly well balanced. It’s almost as if Bordeaux wine makers have had centuries of experience to draw upon. This was the only bottle the tasting crew polished off completely.
Alas, the four new varieties in the Star Trek wine collection fall far, far short of their predecessors. We’ll start with the merely bland and inoffensive: an Andorian Blue Premium Chardonnay and the United Federation of Planets Special Reserve Sauvignon Blanc.
The Andorian Blue is, indeed, blue in hue, no doubt thanks to the addition of a food dye. (“What is this, a substrate for a COVID test?” one taster quipped.) It’s a gimmick that imparts a very slight aftertaste that is all the more noticeable because the wine otherwise barely has any flavor. That’s unusual for a chardonnay. I’m not especially fond of white wines, but good chardonnays are generally light to medium body, crisp, and a bit citrus-y. The Andorian Blue is indeed light, but it’s missing any distinctive flavor notes—other than that unfortunate hint of blue dye.
Meanwhile, the Sauvignon Blanc is so light that one taster wrote, “Does it exist at all?” Another commented, “What is this? Yellow water infused with wine essence?” The kindest comments were that the wine was “unassuming” and would make a good fit for a weekend afternoon BBQ, or perhaps a suitable accompaniment to spicy Thai food.
That brings us to the truly bad: a Klingon Blood Wine and a Cardassian Kanar Red Blend. In retrospect, it’s probably not surprising that the wines marketed with the most blatant appeals to fan service were also deemed largely undrinkable by nearly all the tasters. (I will give the Star Trek Wine folks props for creative bottle design, especially the corkscrew shape of the Cardassian blend.)
The broad consensus was that the Klingon Blood Wine is trying to be a pinot noir and falling short; it’s basically a very fruity California cabernet, with perhaps a hint of pepper. “Whoever supplied this blood ate nothing but fruit salad the week prior,” one taster noted, with another simply writing, “Way too sweet.” The most generous assessment was that it is “drinkable but not extraordinary.”
Finally, there is the Cardassian Kanar Red Blend—easily deemed the worst wine in the collection by our tasters. “Two degrees less sweet than a Boone’s wine cooler,” one taster wrote. (The taster is not a wine cooler fan.) “The Cardassians will never rule the galaxy with wine like this,” another wrote. I found it vile and reminiscent of Welch’s grape juice. But it would probably pair well with Do-Si-Dos or a similar peanut butter cookie if you’re feeling nostalgic for the PB&J flavors of your childhood. And it must be said that at least one taster seemed to like it.
With the evergreen caveat that taste in wine is highly subjective, here’s our recommendation. Stick with the original two bottles for your Star Trek wine, or save yourself some money and get something comparable for a fraction of the price—unless, of course, you’re really keen to collect the whole set of unusual bottle designs. Or you’re a Cardassian who loves really sweet wine.