I have been thinking a lot about what I am going to make for my planned Dornish meal to honor the late Prince Oberyn Martell. I haven’t tried doing any Dornish stuff yet, and I wanted to try since it all sounds so tasty. Originally I wanted to do something before the big showdown with the Mountain. The perfect time has passed, I know, but I just didn’t have time to do it last weekend with all the server surgery.
The Red Viper also got me thinking about wine. Especially those magnificent Dornish wines that get mentioned so frequently in the books.
“I have a sweet red from Dorne, my lady, it sings of plums and cherries and rich dark oak. ”
– the wine merchant/assassin, Game of Thrones, p.589.
I love wine. Every time I hear someone in A Song of Ice and Fire describe a fine wine from somewhere in Westeros, my mind immediately starts wondering what real wine would be closest to what is being described. I know that GRRM is a bit of a foodie himself, or at least someone who has a real appreciation for good food and good wines.
It’s impossible to say anything about GRRM’s sources with 100% certainty. You just can’t predict that sort of thing when even GRRM himself doesn’t seem entirely committed to any single answer to questions posed by fans about, well, anything. But in my mind, whenever I thought of Dornish “summerwines”, I thought of sangria, or at least the older version of it from antiquity or the Middle Ages, i.e. hyppocras. Hyppocras is awesome, and I have tried several versions, such as the kit from Historic Enterprises and the translated old recipes in some of my medieval cookbooks. I also seem to recall that Chelsea over at the Inn at the Crossroads may be working on some sort of “summerwine” recipe or other wine-based spiced beverage. I can hardly wait to see that, as I have loved everything from their book and website that I have tried making, and I have tried making quite a bit.
Anyway, like I said, I always thought of sangria or some other fruity red wine or wine-based drink until I read that quote above. And that quote almost made me drop the book the first time I read it. I thought to myself, “Oh my God… he is describing port. Those rich, dark red sweet wines from Dorne are PORTS.”
Suddenly I had a whole new level of respect for the Dornish, as well as for GRRM’s taste in wine. Makes me want to whip up a kick-ass Portuguese dinner for the man the next time he’s in Boston and tell him it’s Dornish. After he tastes my carne a porco alentejana, he may just agree with me.
Seriously. Take a look at the rabelos used to move wine down the Douro river to Porto and tell me you can’t see the same damn thing happening in Dorne as those awesome Dornish reds make their way to market.
Those boats have been around for at least a few hundred years, if I am not mistaken. And they are unique to that part of Portugal.
Anyway, once you look at the history of the Iberian peninsula (both Portugal and Spain), especially when there was a lot of Moorish influence, you may see the same sort of interesting mix of cultures you see in GRRM’s Dorne. The man has read some history.