Certain marketers would like to have us think that a gamer's diet should include copious amounts of sugary energy drinks like Mountain Dew and Monster. However, if you're after more of the finer things in life and want to give your game experiences a flourish, Noelle Brandmier's blog Wine and Game Pairing (opens in new tab) has got you covered.
If you're after a more sophisticated drinking experience then this is the blog for you, Noelle has matched all sorts of games and gives detailed reasons for her pairings that go beyond a bottle with the prettiest label — a reason for choosing wine for which I am incredibly guilty.
Want to know what wine evokes the rough wilderness of Skyrim? Noelle writes (opens in new tab) that it's 810 Meadworks Jewel of the Newell, a wine that's "earthy and slightly dry, with lovely notes of wildflower honey, oak, and a subtle amount of pomegranate." How about the heavy strategy and planning of Civilization VI (opens in new tab)? Noelle suggests the luxurious Silk and Spice Red Blend. "Notes of lush, ripe dark berries, spices, and a subtle earthy oaky taste accompanies each sip of this delicious red. A fine pairing that I think any strategy gamer would enjoy, whether they're building an army or the Louvre."
It's definitely more in-depth and refined than my personal technique of buying the cheapest thing on offer.
I ask Noelle how she decides on her pairings: "The first thing I do is think about the weight and tone of a game," Noelle explains. "Is the game dark and heavy, like Dark Souls? Time to look for a heavy, dry red. Maybe most of the game takes place in fields, so I'll try to find something with grass notes. Or maybe there's a lot of fire in the game, so I'll look for something with smokey notes. I have a lot of fun because games are so different and they can inspire me in different ways. Sometimes I'll play a game that takes place in a certain area of the world, so I'll look for a wine from that region. Or the game mentions a particular type of wine, like mead or sake, and that will point me in an immediate direction."
Wine and Game Pairings has been active since 2017 and has a hefty backlog of thoughtful and perfect pairings. In her most recent post about The Outer Wilds (opens in new tab) Noelle recommends Shooting Star Zinfandel which she describes as "full of rich, brambly berry flavours, baking spices, and a bit of tobacco. It's an exciting burst of tannin, acidity, and flavour...yet the notes are familiar and comforting. Which, weirdly enough, seems to match my experience with Outer Wilds."
Noelle has also matched Donut County (opens in new tab), Slime Rancher (opens in new tab), Untitled Goose Game (opens in new tab), No Man's Sky (opens in new tab), and Cuphead (opens in new tab). Her posts are always fun and personal, although sometimes pairing up certain genres can be tough. "The hardest games for me to pair are games that take place in space," she says. "I've got a running list of sci-fi games I'd like to pair with no inkling of where to start. Obviously, I haven't been to space. I can't even imagine what things taste or smell like up there, and those are two of my biggest factors in pairing wine with a game."
There are hardly any clues that would give an indication of what space wine would taste like, like in Mass Effect, for example, wines are only mentioned in passing, although other types of booze like beer, sweet liquor, and ale are readily available. Out of the virtual booze I've come across in games, Stardew Valley's fruity wines are a must-try for me, the Starfruit wine in particular sounds fantastic.
"I just finished my first playthrough of Afterparty," Noelle says. "The cocktails in that game sound awful and delicious at the same time (keep in mind they're made for the patrons of Hell). I really wish I could try one...even though it would probably kill me. I'd also happily try a glass of arcwine from World of Warcraft if I could. Can you imagine the taste and effects of a magical wine like that?"
Noelle not only does videogame pairings, she also matches the perfect wine to boardgames and has alcohol recommendations outside of wine. "I'm always working on more pairings!" she says. "I've actually got something a little different in the works for an upcoming pairing: I'm trying out a recipe for a tea-themed game. It involves my first attempt at home-brewing, and I'm pretty excited about it. Hopefully, I'll have a simple recipe to share with others to try out at home!"
Make sure to check out all of Noelle's full reviews over on Game and Wine Pairing (opens in new tab) and if there's a game you think Noelle should check out next, let her know over on Twitter (opens in new tab) and Instagram (opens in new tab).