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Why the Wine and Whiskey in ‘The Last of Us’ Hit so Close to Home

Image Courtesy of HBO / Liane Hentscher

Warning: This story contains spoilers.  

If you haven’t contemplated Beaujolais lately, you’re not watching enough television. The wine is one of several drinks that gets screen time in The Last of Us, an HBO limited series. When they’re not fighting authoritarian corruption, gang violence or zombie-like creatures called “the infected,” characters in The Last of Us are seen raising glasses of Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages, stockpiling Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon and shooting whiskey.  

The series, which debuted in January 2023 and aired its finale on March 12, is based on a 2013 video game. The show features Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal as survivors of a global pandemic that wreaks mass destruction. And, clearly, alcohol plays a pivotal role.

But their drinking is less about inebriation than human connection, and it makes even the most fantastical dystopian scenarios uncannily relatable. There may be monsters, but there’s also someone opening a sentimental bottle of wine with a loved one, swigging liquid courage to kiss a crush or catching up with an errant sibling over a dram. Rather than blurring the edges of an experience with alcohol, these drinks mark it as significant.  

The “Heartbreak” Bottle of Wine 

Image Courtesy of HBO / Liane Hentscher

No one needs wine or whiskey to survive, but sharing a drink can remind us we’re alive. 

This is especially evident in the show’s third episode, “Long, Long Time.” It stars Nick Offerman as Bill, a self-described survivalist; Murray Bartlett as Frank, his soul mate; and Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages 2002 as the wine that brings them together. When Frank first happens upon his Massachusetts homestead, Bill serves him a home-cooked rabbit paired with Beaujolais Villages. Soon thereafter, they fall and love and build a life together. At the end of the episode, on their deathbed, Bill and Frank open another bottle of the same wine.  

While some viewers sniffed at the idea of such an uncomplicated, $15 wine cosplaying as a special occasion bottle, others appreciated its accessibility. In January, after the episode aired, TikTokers nicknamed Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages “the heartbreak wine” and spiked sales. “When you realize Target has the heartbreak wine #thelastofus,” posted one user. In four weeks, her video was viewed 93,600 times.  

Besides, as Frank and the San Francisco Chronicle’s Senior Wine Critic, Esther Mobley, note, rabbit pairs well with Beaujolais. That vintage of Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages had a solid industry reputation, too. Wine Enthusiast called it “fresh and charming” in an 87-point review, and ranked it among the year’s best buys. 

Then again, the actual bottle is hardly the point. Drinks can be sentimental. You might sip the same outdated cocktail each time you see your college friends, or pour an otherwise forgettable Prosecco on your anniversary because it’s what was served at your wedding.