For my wife’s birthday I have obtained the ideal present of her. Viticulture is great combination of board game and wine theme. You can play the game, grow grapes, produce and sell wine in it and if you combine with reasonable wine drinking you have the best solution for romantic evening.
My dear friend recommended this game to me because my wife loves wine but also I do not have any worker placement game in the collection yet. Current essential edition contains several polishments and upgrades from previous basic version and expansions based on feedback from Uwe Rosenberg, author of worker placement legends as Agricola or Caverna.
Viticulture is designed by Jamey Stegmaier who is author of well known steampunk strategy Scythe. Although I enjoy playing Scythe it is not the game I would buy because huge predictability of ideal moves in specific combination of nation and economy. However if you like a lost of different game tokens representing the structures and building of your base the Viticulture will please you as well.
Additionally to very nice structure tokens I have to mention the grape tokens. They are made of glass and after placing them on the player board they optically enlarge the number under it which is just perfect detail making the game wonderfully enjoyable.
After several games I like playing Viticulture. The game very nicely generates the atmosphere of romantic middle age Tuscany filled with sun and wine. Especially when you open a bottle for refreshment during play.
Regarding the cons of the game there are two: realisticity and luck. If you are hardcore wine expert the game itself can be little bit discouraging. You can argue and debate for days about using terminology like blush wine instead of rosé which definitely would suit better and no, it is not created by mixing red and white grapes but hello! This is not reality simulator and you have to accept some level of abstraction to have the game playable. But I totally understand unsatisfied wine fundamentalists so if you want 100 % realistic wine production simulator, you can be disapointed.
Next thing is amount of luck which has great impact on your success in the game. There are no dice in the game however the planning of the long-term strategy is rather nearly impossible since the wine cultivars are drawn absolutely at random. It can happen that you buy 3 or 4 wine cards to plant but you are lacking either red or white variant completely.
The similar situation is for the helper cards, which can help you win the whole game without planting, harvesting or making any wine at all if you are lucky enough. But hey! Talk to any wine maker and they will confirm that growing and producing wine is question of luck too! Even with maximum effort you can get bad grapes. Even with great grapes the wine can spoil and even with great wine, you can have problems with selling it. So the amount of luck needed in the game can make it more realistic in this way after all.
The game have wonderfully connected mechanics with the story. You are actually, planting, growing and harvesting grapes, then creating different kinds of wine from it and then you are selling it to the customers. Also there is a story, you inherit the winery from your parents and trying to keep it working. You even know their names since they are representing by cards picked at random which also sets your starting properties.
The game itself is out of order on most places so if you like wine and product placement and you will see it available, I would rather buy it on your place.
Overal rating: 4/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐