The country lanes are thick with fallen leaves and it’s the season of suicidal pheasants that run backwards and forwards in front of your car rather than fly to safety. The menu at the restaurant I look after is bristling with game – venison, teal, partridge and the dark nights call for fire-side red wines. So here are a few suggestions for wines that are great with game.
Let’s start with guinea fowl which I think of as distant cousin of chicken with lots more character. To partner this I would steer clear of the bigger red wines and opt for a pinot noir. Richmond Plains Pinot Noir from Nelson, New Zealand is spot on to match guinea fowl. This is a most dangerously luscious, easy drinking wine that is just far too quaffable. No hard tannins or rough edges, just silky, soft fruit and a warm, alluring bouquet.
Next up perhaps is duck or partridge. Supermarkets often seem to have Gressingham duck. These farmed duck are less gamey than wild duck, aka mallard. Partridge, less ubiquitous than farmed duck but easier to find than mallard is well worth searching out. Grenache is a grape variety widely grown in the Mediterranean regions that I love to drink with partridge. La Multa from Calatayud in north-east Spain is made by a chap called Norrel Robertson – a Scottish wine-maker who I met in Edinburgh but who has gone native in rural Spain. The vines he works with are old Garnacha (Spanish for what the French call Grenache) which give low yields but greater concentration of flavour. Having studied wine-making in New Zealand his style of wine is bold and modern but he nevertheless really captures the terroir of this wild and arid corner of Spain. This wine is brimming with dark, ripe fruit and edged in spice. Alternatively try Domaine de Escaravailles from Rasteau in the Southern Rhone valley of France. This wine is akin in style to a great Chateauneuf du Pape but at a fraction of the price because of the obscurity of the vineyard. From mostly very old Grenache vines their “Les Antimagnes” is a bargain.
Finally we get to the weightiest of game – grouse and vension. Alright, I hear you say, a deer is surely far heavier than a small bird but what I really mean is these can be two of the most strongly flavoured and powerful of game foods. With venison you have the option of roe deer or red deer and the latter should be a richer flavour. Much of the flavour though will depend on how long the beast is hung. I would drink with this Chateau Montus from Alain Brumont. This wine from Madiran in remote south-west France is made from tannat grapes. The wine is dark and brooding and just made for a fireside winter’s night. It’s full bodied with a taste and smell that makes me think of autumn bonfires, blackberries and cinnamon. I think it’s one of the great red wines of France. There are a few vintages available but be careful, young vintages can be very tough and tannic so look for older vintages. The 2005 and 2007 amongst others are drinking well now. Ideally decant this wine an hour or two before you plan to drink it. Another option for venison or grouse is Orzada Carignan from Odfjell in the Maipo Valley in Chile. The wine is made bio-dynamically from seriously old vines and like the Montus greatly benefits from decanting. This is a big, bold but elegant red with generous fruit, tannins and alcohol but all are nicely balanced.
Richmond Plains Pinot Noir 2011(around £15 – £18) – Vintage Roots, Hook, Hampshire, Vino Vero, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, Vinceremos, Leeds.
La Multa Old Vine Garnacha 2012 (around £9 – £11) – Davis Bell McCrail, Bristol, The Fine Wine Company, Edinburgh, Cross Stobs Wine, Glasgow, Selfridges, London, Marks & Spencers.
Domaine de Escaravailles 2012 “Les Antimagnes” (around £15) Berry, Bros and Rudd, London, Villeneuve Wines Edinburgh and Peebles.
Chateau Montus, Madiran (around £20 – £30 dependent on vintage) The Wine Society, Herts, Four Walls Wine Company, West Sussex, Davis Bell McCraith Wines, Bristol, Rare and Fine Wines, London, Excel Wines, Scotland, In Vino Veritas, Staffs.
Orzada Carignan 2012 from Odfjell. (around £15 – £17) – The Good Wine Shop, London, Hay Wines, Ledbury, Hennings, West Sussex, Waitrose Cellar, Talking Wines, Cirencester, Chester Beer and Wine, Chester.