Red is the name of the game

Italian game sausages, wild boar and wild duck - perfect with local wines
Italian game sausages, wild boar and wild duck - perfect with local wines

18 September 2012

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red wine

Autumn is coming and for some that means the shooting season. In Ireland, this is a hobby that’s been largely left to country dwellers and it’s often seen as vaguely aristocratic. This means that a lot of Irish people rarely, if ever, eat game and they tend to think that game meat is expensive or exotic. Actually, it’s neither of those things. Pigeon, for example, widely eaten in France, is cheap as chips, while venison costs no more than beef. Pheasant, partridge and wild duck are all sold in season by a number of specialist butchers, with prices for birds ranging from €5-€7. While most of these meats have richer flavour than your average battery chicken, they are rarely earthy or strong. The earthiest bird tends to be grouse but it’s generally hard to come by in Ireland


Wine is a great game companion both in the pot and in the glass, with red generally working best. Partridges are good pot roasted or braised whole in a sauce here, however, white wine can work well. With wild boar, a sherry-based sauce really brings out the flavour – try oloroso or a dark, sweet sherry. Long, slow cooking brings a deep, gamey flavour to larger venison joints – baste regularly with red wine and keep loosely covered while cooking. 


And now for what goes in the glass! As game tends to be a treat, the following wines are mid rather than entry point and I’ve tried all of them, through various vintages, with game. Wines from Italy and Spain tend to work especially well and perhaps that’s no accident as game shooting is popular in both countries. Generally, red goes best, but partridge is also very good with lightly oaked chardonnay. Prices are approximately retail.


Tommasi Valpolicella 2010 (Cassidy €13). Gorgeous, ripe plum and damson make this perfect for venison or grouse.


Villa Tonino Nero d’Avola 2010 (Liberty €12). Hearty, with cherry pie and plum flavours; venison, duck and grouse will work well.


Pra Valpolicella Superiore Morandina 2010 (Nicholson €16). A lovely wine with duck and the fresh berry and plum flavours are perfect with wild boar and pork.


Scuro Canoneau di Sardegna 2010 (Liberty €14). Canoneau is Italian for grenache; here, soft berry and cherry fruits make this ideal for wild boar, pheasant and venison.


Umani Ronchi San Lorenzo Rosso Conero 2009 (Nicholson €16) Italian montepulciano and sangiovese based wine, with a cut of acidity and lively fruit which makes it perfect with duck. Garofoli Piancardo Rosso Conero 2009 (Febvre €16) is also decent.


Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2010 (Searsons €16) and Gran Sasso Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2010 (Liberty €12). Cheap Monteplulciano d’Abruzzo should be avoided – montepulciano is a quality grape which shows best when it’s not over-cropped. The Grand Sasso of Abruzzo is home to wild boar and other game and these local wines are a perfect match. 


Vina Real Crianza Rioja 2006 (Febvre €14). Rioja is good with venison, duck and grouse. This is in elegant style.


Inurrieta Sur Navarra 2007 (Searson €13). Hearty, spicy, beefy- perfect for venison, game pies and casseroles.


Zuazo Gaston Rioja Joven 2009 (Classic Wines 11). Very good for the money – lively fruit and soft spice mean it’s good with venison, wild boar and pork, and pies.


Chateau de Chenas Beaujolais Villages 2010 (Gilbey €14). Very decent with pinot-like twist. This is lovely with pheasant and partridge.


Chateau Villa Bel Air 2010 (Barry Fitzwilliam €20). A stylish Bordeaux that delivers on the money. Drink with wild boar, duck, pheasant and partridge.



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