Game on for some seasonal wines and flavours
John Wilson: Wine importers offer their favourite wine and game matches
Some very enticing seasonal aromas have been wafting through the Wilson house recently. It is game season, and while I have never shot anything in my life, I do enjoy eating game. In the latest lockdown, I have been cooking venison, wild boar, mallard and rabbit. It wasn’t easy to source the raw material. Is this too early in the season or has the pandemic made it less available?
On this occasion I asked some wine importers to put forward their favourite wine and game matches. Straight away I came up with a problem. Many of them suggested duck breast, and while I am very fond of Irish farmed duck, especially Silverhill and Skeaghanore, I don’t really see it as game. Then again, my venison and rabbit were both farmed too. Others suggested wild boar, not the easiest to access, but I did buy some online from Ballinwillin House, along with some excellent organic venison.
Most of the suggestions were for Pinot Noir, and Burgundy in particular, a very good choice. I would divide game into feathered and four legs. Mallard, pheasant, partridge and any other wild feathered game will provide a wonderful backdrop to any really good red wine. The best option is the simplest; plainly roasted and allowed to rest a little, then served with game chips or roast potatoes. This is when you can bring out your best mature red Burgundy, Bordeaux, Nebbiolo or Tuscan red. Steer clear of very sweet and sour sauces though.
Shamim de Brún of Mitchell & Son sent me a fascinating recipe for Ischian rabbit stew. I have to admit I didn’t make the intricate recipe, but both her wine suggestions were for white wine, the Palazzo Maffei Lugana (€18.95, Mitchell & Son) being “organoleptically pleasing and complex without being overwhelming”.
My more simple rabbit stew went equally well with white and red wine, including the Bruja de Rozas featured here, which turned out to be the star of the show, going well with all my game dishes.
A casseroled pheasant needs something with a bit more power; a Southern Rhône, a Languedoc red or a Rioja, as suggested by Lynne Coyle of O’Briens to go with her delicious-sounding casserole of pheasant with lentils.
Venison is richer in flavour and therefore the wine needs to have more body. Braised venison or game pie make a perfect winter feast. My casserole went really well with the Bruja de Rozas featured here, but a warming Southern Rhône would do equally well. A venison fillet, served rare, was perfect with the Nervi Gattinara here, as were my grilled wild boar chops (think really flavoursome pork) with a mushroom sauce.
Rioja Crianza 2016, Sierra Cantabria
A maturing Rioja with fresh dark fruits, very subtle oak, and an attractive savoury bite. Try it with lamb cutlets or pheasant slowly braised with Puy lentils, vegetables and red wine.
Stockist: O’Briens, obrienswine.ie
Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2017, Frederic Magnien
Elegant enticing light dark cherry fruits, with good acidity and a tannin-free finish. This was delicious with roast mallard and would also go well with rabbit stew or farmed duck with sour cherries, or guinea fowl.
Stockists: Stationtostationwine.ie; Redmonds, Dublin 6;Redmonds.ie; Barnhill Stores, Dalkey, Barnhillstores.ie; Martin’s Off Licence, Dublin 3, martinsofflicence.ie; Kellys, Dublin 3, kellysofflicence.ie; Dawn’s Off-licence, D16.
Comando “G” La Bruja de Rozas 2018, Sierra de Gredos
A very seductive warming wine with strawberry and red cherry fruits set off by a touch of spice and refreshing acidity. A full-bodied wine to serve with slow-cooked rabbit stew or a venison casserole.
Stockists: Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4, baggotstreetwines.com; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock, blackrockcellar.com; The Corkscrew, Dublin 2, thecorkscrew.ie; 64wine, Glasthule, 64wine.com; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie; The Wine Pair, D8; The Beach House, Tramore; The Wine House, Trim; Loose Canon, Dublin 2, loosecanon.ie; The Fumbally, D8.
Nervi Gattinara 2015, Conterno
Pale in colour and fragrant, with delicate red cherries, a savoury earthy touch and plenty of well-integrated tannins. It could only be Nebbiolo. This would be great with any kind of feathered game or venison steaks.
Stockists: 64wine, Glasthule, 64wine.com; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock, blackrockcellar.com; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; elywinebar.ie; Wineonline.ie.