Monday, 20 October 2014

Top Wines to Match Game Dishes

Photo: Colby Stopa

With Game Season well under way at this time of year, now is the best time to enjoy this flavoursome, rich meat, whether you're dining out or cooking some game dishes yourself.

Whether you're eating feathered or furred game, it's probably going to be big and bold, and you need rich, gutsy wines to stand up to these gamey flavours.

Here are a few simple suggestions for wines that will stand up to various types of game (listed in alphabetical order):

Photo: Beck
Guinea Fowl

With a taste somewhere between chicken and pheasant, guinea fowl is a bird that goes really well in slow-cooked casseroles, as well as being a seasonal Sunday roast alternative.

If you want a red wine, I'd go with a spicy (but not too heavy) red like Rhone or southern French shiraz.
Try: Le Froglet Shiraz, £6,99 at Marks and Spencer

White wines will also work - try a rich, buttery white like oaked chardonnay or Alsace pinot gris.
Try: Montes Alpha Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley - currently £9.74 at Majestic if you buy two (normally £12.99)

Photo: Kai Hendry

If you can afford a treat, you'll love a rich pheasant pie or pheasant stew with chestnut dumplings (marry me, Jamie Oliver) or even just a nice roasted pheasant breast. Either way, I'd definitely go with a red for this flavoursome bird.

If it's roasted pheasant, err to the side of lightness - pick a pinot noir with a little bit of savoury bite (see the Kumeu River pinot I recommended under wild boar at the end of this post).

If you're going full on, rich comfort-food like the stew or pie, then opt for a decent Rhone syrah, a wild, herby southern French blend of red grapes or an earthy Chianti from Italy.
Try: The Society's Chianti Rufina, £7.96 at The Wine Society (probably the best value chianti out there.) OR:
Mlle Jones Fitou 2012, £13.99 at Majestic when you buy two (and well worth it!)

Photo: Eric McGregor

Probably my favourite game bird, pigeon really is packed full of flavour, and needs equally robust red wines to bring out the best in it.

Look to Aussie Shiraz, the best quality Chianti you can afford (they're lovely and earthy) or a northern Rhone Syrah - particularly a Crozes-Hermitage.

Try: Jean-Luc Colombo Les Gravieres Crozes-Hermitage - £10.49 down from until 28th October at Waitrose OR
Peter Lehmann Portrait Shiraz, £11.25 at Sainsbury's

Photo: Kate Hopkins

Firm and meaty but with less assertive flavour than other game, rabbit is irresistible when accompanied by garlic, red fruits or salty pancetta, so which wine you choose will possibly depend on how you're serving it.

Generally speaking, however, you can't go wrong with a good pinot noir or a soft Italian red.
Try: Ara Single Vineyard Pinot Noir, £11.99 at Waitrose

If you're opting for a richer, more concentrated dish like rabbit stew, look for southern Italian or Greek red wines.
Try: Red on Black Agiorgitiko (Greece), £8.99 at Marks and Spencer

Photo: Jeremy Keith

Ah, the big beast of the game world, venison (or, basically, deer) is a mighty meat that is normally served alongside berries like blackberry or juniper, or in rich sauces and things like port.

It needs a big, beefy wine to match it, particularly one with similar dark fruit flavours to the accompaniments, so you should probably opt for cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, bold Italian reds or Rhone blends (syrah-grenache). A Malbec might even work if your dish has a little extra spicy richness.

With roast venison or venison sausages, try: Chateau Aigues Vives Corbieres, £8.91 if you buy two at Majestic (normally £10.99)

With richer, more concentrated dishes like casseroles try: Lava Beneventano Aglianico, £9.79 at Tesco.

Photo: Mike Haller
Wild Boar

This delicious, stronger-flavoured alternative to pork probably needs something silky but - like regular pork - not too tannic.

Pinot noir and Beaujolais are generally good matches in this regard, although I'd go with something with a little more oomph than normal.
Try: Kumeu River Village Pinot Noir for £9.50 from The Wine Society.

I've only ever had wild boar when in southern France, and earthy Mediterranean flavours do work really well. With that in mind, I'd try a bottle of Frappato, a Sicilian red grape that is like pinot noir but tangier and a little richer - exactly what you'd need for wild boar.
Try: Tesco Finest Frappato is a joy at £7.99 per bottle.

What game dishes have you been enjoying, and - more importantly - what have you been drinking with them? Let us know in the comments...

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