October 2020 – Wines to go with Game
For this Zoom tasting, we focused on wines that would go with game. Some of us had prepared small pieces of game, such as roast partridge, venison, or game-flavoured sausages, to try out for ourselves with the three wines selected.
Many wines are suitable for game, depending on both the particular game and its cuisine. Moreover, for every choice there are exceptions, personal preferences and disagreements. The three wines for this tasting can also be enjoyed on their own or with food other than game.
The best overall match generally has been said to be a red Rhône. Other choices are a a classic red Burgundy with some age, New Zealand Pinot Noir or North Italian red. Whites should have some weight, like a Macon Chardonnay or Viognier.
The first of the three wines selected here was white, Jaboulet Viognier 2019 from the Rhône: 100% Viognier grapes from 20-year old vines. It could be served with pheasant with apples and cream – alternatives would be a dry aromatic Pinot Gris or a spätlese German Riesling; and casseroled partridge with cabbage, flavoured with juniper – an alternative would be an unoaked Chardonnay. Other foods it matches are seafood and Asian dishes. It makes a good apéritif.
This was agreed to be an excellent entry-level Viognier: smooth, medium bodied, fresh, and a dry finish. It showed the grape’s typical characteristics: aromas of pear and peach, and a certain minerality; a dry palate, not acidic, with apricot and floral notes.
The second wine was a Barolo Araldica 2016, or alternatively a Majestic Definition Barolo 2016.
The Nebbiolo grape, grown mainly in North West Italy for Barolo and Barbaresco, produces wines which are light coloured, even whilst tannic and weighty. Its aromas can be reminiscent of autumn, smoke and earth, of violets, liquorice, tar and plums, with complex rich full-bodied flavours, and a long dry finish. It stays high in acidity.
These two wines both showed well.
Foods other than game that the wine matches are foods containing fat, butter and olive oil, strong hard cheese, Chinese and Asian dishes.
2016 was a wonderful growing season in both Barolo and the Rhone. It was one of the longest in recent years, with ideal weather conditions. These wines are concentrated and rich, yet with great acidity. The ripeness of the fruit means that the wines are approachable at a younger age than usual. However, the concentration, levels of acidity and elegant tannins means that the wines will evolve over many years.
The third wine was a Gigondas 2016, E. Guigal.
Gigondas lies at the foot of Mont Ventoux, in the southern Rhône Valley. A maximum proportion of 85% Grenache is permitted, with Cinsault, Syrah and Mourvèdre. The wines are deep coloured and substantial.
This wine comprised 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre, aged for two years in large oak vats, of which 50% are new.
This wine has been widely praised. We enjoyed it.
It was full-bodied and powerful, with intense ripe fruit, and spice and pepper tones. It showed good tannins. At the same time it was elegant and easy to drink.
It goes well with red meats and cheese, in addition to game.
E.Guigal’s Côtes du Rhône 2016 compares well.
The 2016 vintage in the Rhône Valley is of high quality. The growing season was long and steady. The grapes were fully ripened, producing intense concentrated fruit. Thanks to cool nights later in the season, the grapes were not overripe and not too alcoholic. The resulting wine retained freshness. The wines are already accessible, and because of the tannic structure providing good balance, will develop well.
A selection of further ideas for wines to match with game:
For delicate, light game, such as partridge, pheasant or guinea fowl, the wine must not overwhelm the flavour; therefore a light fruity variety, say a Pinot Noir from North America or New Zealand.
Grouse has rich but subtle flavours, and is stronger than some other game, so it can take wine with more body – Côtes du Rhone or Chianti.
Venison is very lean, so a low tannin red is appropriate; Pinot Noir from Burgundy or the New World, or Côtes du Rhône. For a venison or rabbit casserole, more full-bodied wines like Malbec, Merlot or Zinfandel are worth considering. A rich white wine would go with Rabbit cooked with mustard.
Low tannin reds would also suit Wild Boar, perhaps Beaujolais Crus or Pinot Noir. A white from the Southern Rhône is another possible choice.
Amarone or Côtes du Rhône would match jugged Hare.
Côtes du Rhone, Rioja or Valpolicella work with Duck.
Game accompanied by rich elaborate flavours like fruit sauces, will be enhanced by wines showing fruit, such as those made from Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Tempranillo or Malbec.
Champagne is a classic match with cold game pie.
This wine tasting was an interesting opportunity for us to consider which wines would match which kinds of game and cuisine.