Strange Tales: Captain Picard’s wine in the Star Trek universeBy Rupert Millar
The trailer for the next Star Trek series was revealed at San Diego Comic Con this week alongside a strong reminder of the surprising wine background of one of the franchise’s most famous characters.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard (as portrayed by British actor Patrick Stewart) from ‘The Next Generation’ series which ran from 1987-1994 is one of the sci-fi universe’s best-known figures, even to those who are not die-hard fans.
The next series is called ‘Star Trek: Picard’ and marks the return of Picard (and much of his original crew it would seem) to the screen for the first time since the 2002 film ‘Star Trek: Nemesis’ – after which the entire franchise was on ice until rebooted in 2009 by JJ Abrams.
The full trailer was tweeted out to eager fans by Stewart and can be seen here but for those interested in wine (‘Trekkies’ or not) it’s noticeable that the first shots in the various teaser trailers are not of Starfleet spaceships or crackling nebulae in the depths of the cosmos but – a vineyard and bottles of wine.
Perhaps unknown to more casual viewers, despite Picard’s mellifluous British vowels, love of tea and Shakespeare, he is meant to be a Frenchman; though French itself has disappeared by the 24th century apparently.
Furthermore the Picard family are winemakers, with their family estate being located in La Barre, which is a real place in Bourgogne-France Comté just north of Besançon; where they produce (though it is never fully specified) a futuristic Burgundy under two labels: Château Picard and Château La Barre.
Labels of Château Picard from the series state that the property was made a ‘grand cru’ in 2267 and a glimpse of the bottles in one of the new trailers shows ‘Bourgogne France-Comté’ writ large on the front. Has the Côte d’Or disappeared several centuries from now? Has Pinot Noir finally been replaced by Syrah?
The first glimpse of the Picard family vineyard came during the episode ‘Family’, when Jean-Luc returns home for the first time in 20 years and struggles to bond with his brother, Robert.
Picard returns to the USS Enterprise with a bottle of the 2347 vintage (which he mistook for the 2346 over dinner), which he then opens with Chancellor Durken after first contact with the Malcorians.
The vineyard appears again in the final episode of The Next Generation series, ‘All Good Things’, when, in a time-shifting plot, Picard finds an older version of himself tending vines on his family estate (pictured).
Some of the imagery from that scene has clearly been referenced in the new trailer (as the video below shows), with Picard quietly pottering about his vineyard and winery (his brother Robert and nephew Réné having died in a fire at an earlier point in the timeline). Picard seems to have tidied things up a bit it must be said.
And aside from the vineyard scenes, bottles of ‘Château Picard’ turn up at all sorts of points throughout the television series and films, either just in the background or at moments where Picard has opened one to share with other characters – such as after the death of Data at the end of Nemesis.
Two empty prop bottles of Château Picard were even sold at the ’40 Years of Star Trek’ auction in 2006 for US$6,600 – against a pre-sale estimate of $500 to $700 – which the Christie’s auctioneer reportedly remarked was probably a “record for empty wine bottles”.
There are anachronisms of course. To begin with the supposedly ‘Burgundian’ location of Château Picard is distinctly Californian in appearance (no prizes for guessing why) and ‘Château’ has never been a very Burgundian affectation, nor the tall, narrow shouldered bottle shape.
As an aside, although it is noted that humans have created an alcoholic substitute in the future called ‘synthenol’, it is interesting to consider that the Star Trek universe is (probably) the only mainstream popular setting to imagine winemaking and viticulture in the future.
The latest trailer in particular appears to show a certain amount of work still being done by hand – but perhaps this is just Picard being ‘old school’ – and also hover machines spraying the vines.
Spraying them with what though? Chemicals still? Or has the viticultural world of tomorrow discovered non-toxic microbial spays to be a better alternative? The vineyard doesn’t look burnt at any rate and hover vehicles would certainly negate soil compaction too.
It might only be science-fiction and even romantic conceit to believe viticulture will exist almost unaltered several centuries on from now but at least someone is imagining a world where ‘real’ wine and viticulture still has a place.
The real Château Picard
And in a final, final note, there is a real Château Picard, which is owned by Bordeaux négociant house Mähler-Besse.
Located in St-Estèphe, it is available in the UK through The Wine Society.