The term “game” can take you to so many different mental places depending on your passions: sports fan? Surely we mean football. Console player? You know I’m talking about Call of Duty. Boardgame geek? Setlers of Catan is what it’s all about. But while it could be an interesting exercise to pair wines and “games” using any of the aforementioned meanings, on this occasion, I shall focus on the tastiest definition of the word.
Game meat can have many different shapes and sizes, and it’s sometimes divided into feathered or furred, but its defining feature is that it comes from wild animals. The name itself comes from Medieval times and it is a nod to the act of hunting seen as a sport or a game.
Flyers or runners, these animals tend to have more intense flavours than its farmed counterparts (more exercise and a diverse diet surely help), therefore, wine pairing guidelines are to be slightly adjusted to help our glass make justice to what’s cooking.
Down to Earth and Mature Flavours
It’s time to prioritise complexity over intensity. Let the tannic cherry bombs rest until BBQ season and seek wines with nuances and a wide range of flavours.
It is worth noting at this point that wines’ flavours are often separated in three tiers: primary, secondary and tertiary. The first layer comes from the grape variety and some would say, the terroir; the second is developed during the winemaking process, and the third can only be crafted by time. Along this last cluster, which is achieved through ageing and maturing, we’ll often find the earthy and nutty flavours that match so beautifully with game meats.
As a rule of thumb, the bigger the animal the bigger the wine; think of a delicate Pinot Noir or a Beaujolais with a juicy duck confit versus a solid Ribera del Duero along wild boar. Another point to consider would be whether we’ll be serving a lean or fatty meat, as the latter would be nicely enhanced by wines with higher acidity that will clean palates between bites, thus avoiding overwhelming our guests.
And while red wines will often prove harmonious along game meats, white wine lovers won’t be left without choice. Aged whites as well as those given an extra oomph with skin contact (maceration of the juice with the grape’s skin early in the winemaking process) will have a golden opportunity to shine along the most delicate game dishes. Examples to keep on your radar include aged white Rioja, a plump Condrieu or white Chateauneuf du Pape from the Rhone Valley or a qvevri-aged Georgian amber wine.
Looking for some ideas? The bottles below will get you sarted!
Fontanafredda Raimonda Barbera d’Alba 2016
€18 – Available at Karwig Wines, Martins Off Licence, Hole in The Wall & Jerry’s gin Skerries
A persistent and intense ruby red from the Langhe Hills in Italy’s Piedmonte.
It has a fruity opening but shortly after ripe cherries and cranberries greet your palate, they’re complemented by a pleasant yet delicate spiciness and a floral note.
Medium bodied, moderate in tannins and high in acidity, this juicy red will go very well with duck or goose. Bonus points if berries feature as part of the dish.
€11.99 – Available at Lidl
The cru of Moulin-à-
This smooth bojo is a plump mix of mixed berry preserve, a hint of toast and a subtle earthiness. Ideal along venison, wild mushroms or confit duck.
Kreydenweiss Or Ange 2017
€24.95 – Available at O’Briens Wine
This rare organic beauty hails from Alsace, France. It’s name is a play between the French words for “golden” (or) and “angel” (ange) and “orange”, as in “orange wine.” Pale peach in colour, this wine is a parade of aromas and flavours of ripe stone fruit, orange blossom, marmalade and even a hint of dulce de leche and toffee.
Don’t let its sweet aromas fool you, it’s dry as a dessert and with a very high acidity. If you’re sceptical about amber wines, this might be the wine to turn you. For a very exotic match, try it with alligator. A Paella Valenciana (rice and hare) will also work well.
Domaine Raquillet Mercurey Vieilles Vignes 2016
€40 – Available at siyps.com , 64 Wines, Green Man Wines and McCabes Wines
As is the case with all red from Burgundy, this delightful bottle is made from Pinot Noir. It’s intense and elegant, with a complex assortment of flavours that evoke a walk through a forest filled with ripe berries, dried leaves, wet earth and flowers.
On the palate, tannins and acidity are moderate and the finish is long and pleasant. A wonderful match to feathered game or earthy hare dishes.
Prieler Blaufränkisch Johanneshöhe 2015
€23.50 – Available at Blackrock Cellar
This Austrian red offers a smooth taste of the country’s dark horse variety Blaufränkisch. Soft tannins and a silky body with a combination of dark berries and earthy flavours.
It is a graceful wine that will excel along venison, especially when autumnal flavours such as blackberry sauce and wild mushrooms are part of the dish.
Protos Reserva 2011 Ribera del Duero
€24 – Available at Jus de Vine Portmarnock, Drink Store Manor Street, Redmond’s Ranelagh, Morton’s Ranelagh
The tannins and alcoholic strength of this Spanish colossus would make a lesser wine feel harsh. But here, they work in balance with a full body and a very generous palate that combines flavours of ripe blackberries, vanilla, cedar, cocoa and a smokey, toasted note.
A big wine reserved for a big dish, and one best served decanted. Bring in the roasted wild board and the slow cooked casseroles, it can take it.
Gabriela’s passion for writing is only matched by her love for food and wine. Journalist, confectioner and sommelier, she fell in love with Ireland years ago and moved from Venezuela to Dublin in 2014.
Since then, she has written about and worked in the local food scene, and she’s determined to discover and share the different traditions, flavours and places that have led Irish food and drink to fascinate her.