If you’re relatively new to the long history of Star Trek: The Next Generation, you maybe be ever-so-slightly confused as to why Jean-Luc Picard is living on a wine vineyard at the start of the new series, Star Trek: Picard. Is Jean-Luc drinking too much? Since when did he love grapes so much?
Well, the existence the winery known as Château Picard has a long history in the canon of Star Trek, and, interestingly, in the real world, too. Here’s everything you need to know about Picard’ connection to French wine, what role it’s played in Trek so far, how this effects the events of the new show—plus, where you can drink the wine IRL.
The first episode that features Picard’s family wine estate happens right after Picard’s famous Borg assimilation.
After Jean-Luc Picard was assimilated by the Borg Collective in The Next Generation season 3 finale “The Best of Both Worlds Part 1,” he eventually was de-Borged at the start of season 4. Right away, TNG writer Ronald D. Moore wrote an episode called “Family,” in which Picard goes home to Labarrère, France to visit his brother Robert, Robert’s wife Marie and Picard’s young nephew René Picard.
This episode established that Picard’s family had been making wine in Labarrère, France for several generations, and that it was kind of a big deal that Jean-Luc left home and didn’t participate in the family business. Although Robert and Jean-Luc are mad at each other for most of this episode, they do end up laughing and drinking wine together, covered in mud, at the every end.
Later, disaster struck Picard’s family in Star Trek Generations.
Four years after the events of “Family,” in the year, 2371, Jean-Luc was sent news from Earth that Robert, Marie, and René were all killed in a fire on Earth. This event happens off screen in Star Trek Generations, but the news of the death of his family hits Jean-Luc really hard. The biggest issue was that after the death of René, Jean-Luc realized that his “family line,” would end with him. Jean-Luc never had any children, and young René was the future of the Picards.
It was never made entirely clear in canon if the Picard winery was burned or destroyed in the accident involving René, Marie and Robert, but, as is evident in Star Trek: Picard, the vineyard is up and running in the year 2399, and, has been making wine since 2386. The reason we know this is that the label on the bottle of wine Picard was holding in the very first teaser says the vintage is 2386.
Generally speaking, the vintage refers to when the when the grapes were harvested. Assuming it took about three years for the grapes to be grown for the Bourgogne Picard holds in the first teaser, that means those grapes were planted around 2383 or before. So, this means Château Picard has been operating since at least 2383, meaning that sometime between 2371 and 2383, someone was keeping things up and running for about a decade since Robert’s death. Or, it could mean that the vineyard only recently got back into business.
According to the “First Duty” exhibition at San Diego Comic Con, Jean-Luc retires from Starfleet in 2386, which means it’s reasonable to assume the he personally harvested the wine we see him holding in the first teaser.
Prior to Star Trek: Picard, we’ve already seen a different alternate future where Picard harvests wine in his retirement.
Somewhat famously, the idea that Picard would spend his retirement on his family’s wine vineyard was established as a possible future in the series finale of The Next Generation, “All Good Things…” That episode was all about Jean-Luc being shuffled Kurt Vonnegut style between three different time periods: his first day as the captain of the Enterprise; the relative “present”; and the future year 2395, where he is an older man living on the wine vineyard, harvesting wine, and, possibly, losing his memory.
This future is not part of the “real” Star Trek canon, because it also involves a paradox which creates an anti-time anomaly that destroys the entire universe. Picard prevents this from happening in the alternate 2395, and then, off-screen, tells the entire “presente day” crew about what happened. La Forge and Crusher talk about the fact that Picard gave them foreknowledge of future events, and everybody pretty much decides that they are not going to let that exact future come to pass.
So far, everything that has happened after “All Good Things…” indicates the TNG crew was successful. In Generations, the Enterprise-D was destroyed, so it couldn’t actually exist in the 2395 future we saw in that episode. Plus, in the trailers for Picard, Deanna Troi is clearly alive in 2399, but in the anti-time future, she had mysteriously died in 2395. Data also was alive in in the anti-time future, but, of course, in regular canon, Data “died” in 2379, at the end of Star Trek Nemesis.
And yet, even though nearly everything about Jean-Luc’s future vision has been different, it’s clear that Star Trek: Picard establishes one thing is the same: Picard spends his retirement working on his family’s wine vineyard, just like he did in “All Good Things…” And although he doesn’t have a big bushy beard, and he’s not losing his memory…it seems like the fate of the galaxy is still hanging in the balance.
Château Picard exists throughout the Star Trek timeline—and in real life, too.
Easter eggs featuring bottles of wine made by Château Picard exist in a few cool places in Star Trek canon. In Star Trek: Discovery, Captain Georgioiu (Michelle Yeoh) has a bottle of Château Picard in her ready room on the USS Shenzhou, with a vintage of 2349. To be clear, this episode exists about about 49 years before Jean-Luc was even born, and the vintage of the wine is 56 years before he’s born, meaning the family has been making wine for a long, long time.
Similarly, in Star Trek Nemesis, the crew share a bottle of Château Picard after Data is killed. Echoing a sentiment from Admiral Kirk in The Search For Spock, Jean-Luc toasts, “To absent friends.” This bottle has vintage of 2267, meaning the wine was harvested right in the middle of Captain Kirk’s five-year-mission in The Original Series, which again, predates Picard’s birth and means that wine came from a very good year.
Here on planet earth in 2020, you can get a real bottle of Château Picard Bordeaux which claims to have vintage of 2386, just like the bottles of Bourgogne Jean-Luc is holding in the trailers. When you open one of these bottles up, you’ll see on the cork that this is really a 2017 vintage, and that this wine doesn’t come from Labarrère, France, but from Saint-Estèphe, France, which is about a two hour drive away.
This is because Château Picard in Saint-Estèphe predates the fictional Château Picard in Star Trek. Basically, back in the ‘90s, it was a happy accident that this winery already existed. And now, the folks at Château Picard are bringing the best vintage of the 24th century into the 21st century through the magic—and patience—of harvesting grapes.
And, the good news is that the Château Picard Bordeaux, which you can actually buy from StarTrekWines.com, is a legitimately good wine: well balanced, and bold, but not too alcohol forward. Essentially, if this wine had been quickly made just to be a tie-in with the TV show, it would be a little tacky. But that’s not the case. Just like there were real spaceships called Shenzhou and Discovery before those starships appeared in Star Trek, the Picard wine has existed here on Earth, well before Jean-Luc decided to engage with it.
Star Trek: Picard will hit CBS All Access on January 23. Read more about it here.