NOW that we can get the same vegetables and fruit in the supermarket in January or July we have lost much of our instincts for eating seasonally.
Game, however, is the exception as it is illegal to hunt most game birds before Nov 1.
I mention this because certain wines seem to have a particular affinity with game and I look forward to finding new matching combinations this time every year. A visit to Knockranny House in Westport opened up some new possibilities, however, thanks to the creativity of chef Seamus Commons and sommelier Nick Faujour.
Knockranny’s annual game tasting menu has become one of the highlights of the culinary calendar and seems to get more refined every year. On my recent visit I tried Teal and foie gras terrine with an off-dry Rheingau Spatlese Riesling which managed to complement but also cut through the richness of the wild duck and the foie gras. Grouse was matched with a slightly spicy Northern Rhone Crozes Hermitage from Yann Chave and Venison matched with earthy Luigi Bosca Malbec from Argentina. Nick told me that he finds game particularly challenging to match with white wines and I can see how this would be difficult, particularly with stronger tasting game.
“I focus on body, fruit and acidity but I also look for spice because Seamus often cooks game with spices. With game season a prelude to the Christmas season, spicy wines and spiced game just seem to make sense,” he says.
“The sauce being served with the game is very important but I also like to find lighter styles of wine to match with, as rich wines combined with rich game can be too much and leaves you feeling too full.”
Below I recommend some wines that I think will match well with different game. If you find well hung birds or wild duck a little strong tasting don’t forget that rabbit or lighter birds such as pheasant, or partridge can be delicious to match with a whole range of wines.
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BEST VALUE UNDER €15Toro Loco Reserva, Spain 2012 — €6.99
A blend of 50% tempranillo with around 10% each of garnacha, cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and merlot. This has enough spicy character and fruit to cope with almost any game and is a steal at this price. Oak is noticeable but integrated and the pungent dark fruit flavours are balanced with acidity and some structure. Drink with wild duck, venison or hare, but would also work with rabbit or pheasant.Moulin de Gassac Rouge, Pays d’Herault, France — €9.49-10.49
Stockists:Curious Wines Cork, Red Nose Wines Clonmel, Cases Wine Warehouse Galway
Mas de Daumas Gassac is the Languedoc’s star wine and usually costs around €50, but this tasty red is from the same stable. A blend of syrah and grenache with lots of ripe plum and blackberry fruit and not a little substance. Definitely a runner for game birds such as partridge or pheasant.Pórtico Da Ria Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain 2010 — €13.99
Albarino is native to Galicia in north west Spain but you will find some plantings elsewhere, including the Languedoc (eg Laurent Miquel). The weight and spicy floral notes in a typical albarino such as this one are a fine match for rabbit, pheasant and lighter game, especially those flavoured with autumn fruits (eg pheasant with apple and Calvados cream).BEST VALUE UNDER €25 Miro XL Jeruzalem, Slovenia — €19.99
Stockists:Cabot and Co, Westport
From Styria in the eastern part of Slovenia, this is one of many interesting wines imported by Cabot and Co in Westport. A blend of 50% riesling and 50% pinot blanc, but seemed more than the sum of its parts with rich pear and peach aromas, a nice weight on the palate and finely balanced acidity.Moric Blaufrankisch 2011, Burgenland, Austria — €22.99
Stockists:Cabot and Co, Westport
This unusual grape is found in Austria and other parts of eastern Europe. Aromas and flavours of cherries and red fruits and a fine elegant structure not unlike a Germanic pinot noir. Nick matched this with partridge and pheasant in a chicken consommé and it was as happy with the delicate young game as it was with the rich soup and the roast pear on the side.Pio Cesare Barbera d’Alba, Piedmont — €22.99
Stockists:Limerick: Ivans, Mr Macs. Cork: JJ O’Driscolls, 1601 Kinsale.
There are huge pleasures in a fragrant fruity barbera such as this one, especially when paired with complex game flavours. The rich spicy fruit allied with good acidity and weight allows it to match well with lighter game such as pheasant but also with venison and wild duck such as teal or mallard.
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