A Downton Abbey Wine Companion

© AF archive / Alamy Stock Photo
Extortion?! Threats to job security?!! This calls for some wine…

With the addictive British drama series now in its final season, it seems only right to pay homage to the major players that make Downton, well… a masterpiece. Although they all share a similar air of Old World classicism, each member of the Crawley family has his or her unique quirks that fuel the scandal, discord, and tragedy that keep us on the edge of our seats. And the servants who keep the great house running are unique, developed personalities with their own secret pasts – much like wines, they tell the stories of the places they’re from and the people who made them who they are. In fact, each character shares traits in common with a distinct wine category. Here are the 14 central Season 6 characters and their wine equivalents.

Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham: Left Bank Bordeaux
Why? Lord Grantham rules his estate with dignity and authority, as the great wines of the Médoc did the international market throughout much of history. Viewed as settled in his ways and impervious to the changes of the modern era, he sometimes surprises the family with his amenability to new ideas.
Lady Cora, Countess of Grantham: California Cabernet
Why? Of similar noble standing to that of her husband, Lady Cora has an additional asset that often works in her favor – the charm and approachability that comes from her American upbringing.
Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham: Spätlese Riesling
Why? Lady Grantham’s sharp wit – like the grape’s high acidity – curbs any overt sweetness, although she shows an old-fashioned sort of generosity in the presence of her granddaughters. Steely, spicy, and aging gracefully, she also bears a title that’s more than a mouthful for most people to pronounce.
Lady Mary Crawley: Loire Valley Chenin Blanc
Why? Depending on her mood, her surroundings, and the company she keeps, the heiress Mary can be either a staunch traditionalist or entirely avant-garde in her ideas. Her cold demeanor in the face of would-be suitors mirrors the cool mineral character inherent to Loire whites.
Lady Edith Crawley: Aligoté
Why? The underdog and most overlooked of the Crawley sisters, Edith’s story aligns with that of Burgundy’s Aligoté. Frequently passed over for the region’s more cherished Chardonnay, it can thrive when given a purpose – as it is when tended by a great winemaker.
Isobel Crawley: Aussie Shiraz
Why? Isobel Crawley is a little louder and less restrained by social mores than her aristocratic relatives, just as this grape tends towards more intensely fruit-forward expressions in its New World terrain than at home in the Rhône. But despite these variances, in both cases the family resemblance is undeniable.
Mr. Carson, Butler: Port
Why? We find it particularly fitting that when Mr. Carson settles in to his late-night bookkeeping after a long day buttling, a short-stemmed glass of Port is his indulgence of choice. A traditionalist to the extreme, fortified by the old order of service, he also exudes an endearing sweetness in his dealings with the Crawley sisters.
Mrs. Hughes, Housekeeper: Sancerre
Why? Elsie Hughes is the proverbial backbone of the Downton estate – a trustworthy confidante and reliable stewardess for both the Crawley family and the entire team of servants. Sancerre, the classic and reliable Loire white, is known for its sturdy backbone of acidity that makes it a versatile pair with a variety of foods.
Mrs. Patmore, Cook: Chianti
Why? Sometimes volatile and always brimming with energy, Mrs. Patmore embodies a motherly warmth that keeps the Downton kitchen fires going. The homey flavors of Chianti are similarly comforting – the bright, spicy red fruit character of the Sangiovese grape a perfect match for Mrs. Patmore’s outspoken personality.
Daisy Mason, Assistant Cook: Albariño
Why? Considered by many as a simple wine, this Galician white is as zesty as it is bright. Daisy – the spunky number two in the Downton kitchen – gets brighter each week as she continues her home schooling under the guidance of Mr. Molesley.
Anna Bates, Lady’s Maid: Provence Rosé
Why? Anna manages to keep a fresh and sunny outlook through scandal, wrongful accusations, and even a violent attack. She’s an easy-going but reliable partner to both her husband and Lady Mary and provides the right amount of uplifting whenever it’s needed most, much like the quintessential pink wine from France.
Mr. Bates, Valet: Grüner Veltliner
Why? When they first meet Mr. Bates, the Downton staff doesn’t believe he’s a capable valet due to his suffering from an old war injury. But Bates over-performs and earns their respect and admiration, just as Austrian Grüner Veltliner bounced back after the “antifreeze scandal” of 1985 and is now world-renowned for its quality and unique, savory flavor profile.
Thomas Barrow, Under Butler: Aglianico
Why? Aglianico thrives in dark, volcanic soil, just as Thomas seems to thrive whenever treachery is involved – be it bullying, blackmailing, or otherwise plotting. When grown at lower elevations – like the slopes of Mount Vulture – the grape reveals its softer side, as Thomas does when the occasional friend breaks through his wall of distrust.
Tom Branson: Corsican Wine
Why? Torn between the “upstairs” and “downstairs” class contingents, the Crawleys' outsider son-in-law Branson is not quite at home in either, but his forward thinking is just what the estate needs to keep its farms afloat. Corsica presents a similar identity quandary: not quite French in style and not quite Italian, its wines offer a unique expression that pulls from both.
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