Welcome to the first installment of a mini series of articles looking at different types of game and some wine pairings you may want to experiment with/already know about/ disregard completely and drink whatever takes your fancy â€“ and thereâ€™s nothing wrong with that. If you enjoy claret with cheesecake or Riesling with roast beef, carry on.
Letâ€™s start with venison as it is still in season.
Essentially you can treat venison as you would beef joints, but bear in mind that venisonâ€™s inherent rich, gamey flavour combined with its leanness doesnâ€™t respond well to tannin in wine, so whether youâ€™re casseroling or roasting, plump for something with some pleasingly ripe, rounded fruit flavours: a Rioja, Australian or South African Shiraz or an Italian Barbera for example, or a wine with some maturity that may have a similar gamey quality and whose tannins will have softened, such as a red Burgundy or RhÃ´ne red (A quick aside: tannins are the compounds extracted from the grapeâ€™s skins, seeds and stems during the winemaking process, and also possibly from wooden barrels that the wine might have been fermented or matured in, that lead to the drying, grippy, cheek-puckering sensation associated with red wines.)
If you are cooking your meat quickly and hence serving it rarer you could consider a younger, more tannic wine, but always consider what, if any, sauce youâ€™re serving it with, or what itâ€™s been marinated in. Often sauces and marinades will impart the dominant flavour and this should have an overriding influence on what wine to serve.
If youâ€™re using wine to cook with, Iâ€™m with the late Keith Floyd: â€œIf you canâ€™t drink it, donâ€™t cook with it.â€ A further consideration is if cooking a regional recipe from a wine producing country, the local wine should be an ideal starting point.
Six of the best
Scotto Zinfandel, Â£8.99. A cracking ripe, succulent Californian red with plushly textured black cherry and bramble fruit, soft tannins and a sweet note of vanilla. A perfect complement to slow cooked dishes or those in rich, winey sauces.
Spice Route â€œChakalakaâ€, Â£14.99. A barnstorming, flavoursome South African take on the Southern RhÃ´ne blend. Big flavours of cherry and plum with smoky notes and a complex savoury, leathery, spicy quality. Open it up, let it breathe and serve with seared venison. Lovely.
Pasquiers Grenache from the Languedoc is a veritable bargain, being a modest Â£6.99 and packed with juicy, peppery fruit and a twist of liquorice. Great value and an easy partner for a venison casserole or venison sausages with creamy mash.
Barbera Dâ€™Asti â€œBlinaâ€, Â£13.99. From Piedmont in NW Italy, this benefits from being open or decanted for an hour or so to best reveal its sensuously textured ripe black cherry and raspberry fruit. Its natural acidity makes it an ideal pairing for recipes with fruit sauces such as redcurrant or cranberry (Delia has a lovely recipe for Cumberland cranberry sauce with venison steaks).
Pinot Noir is many peopleâ€™s go to wine for game due to its appealing sweeter fruit flavours, milder tannins and silky texture, with mature wines, particularly those from Burgundy, showcasing its ability to develop gamey, farmyardy flavours (stinky wines, yum) that complement all manner of game dishes so well. It can also be rather expensive.
The Crusher is neither Burgundian, nor too dear at Â£10.99. Itâ€™s a terrific example of the silky charms of the grape from the US and offers bright, mouthfilling strawberry and red berry fruit with subtle notes of smoke and herbs and would be a treat with venison and wild mushroom sauce.
Mature wines arenâ€™t going to be cheap but Spain provides opportunities to pick up well priced wines with some nice age to them â€“ Dehesa La Granja 2006, Â£14.99 being a prime example. Tempranillo is the grape here and this is top notch wine from a superb producer from Castilla y Leon in NW Spain. This is beautifully ripe and smooth, still fresh and juicy, with a nice oaky influence and a gentle spice. Broad, full and complex, this is one to open when youâ€™re entertaining and roasting a saddle of venison.
All prices quoted are for single bottles. A 10% discount will be applied for Powellâ€™s customers quoting GAMEBLOG.