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Game and wine

Wild kennisdatabase > wild en wijnDuring the autumn – the traditional game season – we start thinking about wines that are quite different from the ones we enjoyed in the summer. Some people associate game and poultry with Burgundy, yet this is just one of the possibilities. Wildplaza would like to propose a few wine suggestions and give you answers to which wines will go best with your game and poultry dishes.

Burgundy: an autumn classic

To know which wines will best accompany certain foods, we can simply rely on the season. We associate warm weather, for example, with light refreshing reds and rosés. Their flavour is perfect with summer specialities such as barbecues and salads. When autumn arrives, we are less interested in these light fruity wines. Instead, we turn to a more full-bodied wine such as Burgundy. And this is also the start of the game season.

And what goes well with Burgundies? Game, of course! In certain specific old Burgundies, we can even detect the aroma of raw game. Such wines are said to have an “animal aroma”. And a Burgundy will enhance anything that comes from the woods: wild mushrooms, truffles, berry compotes. These are the same aromas found in a good Burgundy. Wine connoisseurs sometimes refer to the aromas of an autumn forest and its undergrowth.

At this point, we would like to make a distinction between two types of Burgundy: the famous masculine and feminine Burgundies. Particularly the concentrated, full-bodied Burgundies such as Gevrey-Chambertin, Pommard, Nuits-Saint-Georges and Aloxe-Corton, versus the more refined, more elegant Burgundies such as Chambolle-Musigny, Vosne-Romanée and Volnay. The first of these are perfect when served with game having a pronounced flavour: hare, rabbit, wild boar, venison. Wines in the second category are preferred for poultry and will be the perfect accent for pheasant with Belgian endive or partridge with Savoy cabbage. A feminine Burgundy will also be a better choice for domestic poultry (chicken, turkey, quail, guinea fowl).

And Bordeaux?

Bordeauxs and Burgundies have not that much in common. After all, the grapes used in making them are different: Bordeaux is made from Cabernet sauvignon and Merlot grapes (supplemented with Cabernet franc, Petit verdot and even Malbec), whilst Burgundy is produced solely from Pinot noir. A Bordeaux is loaded with tannins that also extend its storage capacity. Although a Burgundy contains fewer tannins, its higher acidity ensures a fairly long storage period. A Bordeaux is usually full-bodied and earthy in character, whilst a Burgundy is more refined and fruitier. This is why a Bordeaux can accompany game just as well as a Burgundy.

Burgundy is not always the deep dark full-bodied wine thought to be requisite for serving with a marinated saddle of hare. Some Burgundies are actually too light for accompanying game with a distinctive flavour. In these cases, a Bordeaux would be a better choice – particularly a masculine, full-bodied Bordeaux such as a Saint-Estèphe, a Pauillac or a Pomerol. Hare and Pomerol, for example, are a very familiar, traditional and favoured combination. The same rule applies to the choice of a Burgundy: the more refined the flavour of the game, the lighter (i.e. the more feminine) the wine. Pheasant and other game fowl, just as domestic fowl, are better accompanied by a Margaux, a Saint-Julien or a mature Saint-Emilion.

We should also consider the wines of Graves and Pessac-Léognan (Pessac-Léognan being an enclave within the Graves region where the best crus originate). Connoisseurs think a good Graves has the body of a Haut-Médoc combined with the roundness and elegance of a Saint-Emilion. It can be served with pigeon and duck, two types of poultry that combine robustness and finesse in the flavour and texture of their flesh. Other regions, too, produce masculine, robust Bordeauxs that can stand up to the distinctive flavours of hare or wild boar - particularly Fronsac (and Canon-Fronsac) and Côtes de Bourg. In conclusion, we still want to mention Cahors, a wine from the region known for its truffles and located southwest of Bordeaux. This deep dark, concentrated wine is sure to appeal to you when accompanying marinated game served with wild mushrooms.

Another tip: when you serve a game dish that includes fruit, you should pay close attention to the choice of your Bordeaux. Tannin and fruit flavours do not mix that well. In this case, choose a Bordeaux with a dominant Merlot such as a Saint-Emilion or Pomerol. This grape adds to the roundness of the wine.

Wines for autumn specialities

Even when summer is past, there’s no reason to forget all the wines of southern France. Naturally, red wines consumed when still young are not really appropriate for autumn specialities. But the Côtes du Rhône, Provençe, Languedoc and Roussillon regions also produce robust wines that can be served at room temperature and will be compatible with the most highly flavoured game dishes. To begin with, there is the northern Rhône Valley located south of Lyon. This region, known for its cuisine and genuine wild boars, produces such wines as Cornas, Saint-Joseph, Côte Rôtie and Hermitage. Further south are Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Vacqueyras, Gigondas, Minervois, Fitou and Bandol. And Madiran comes from a region near the Pyrenees. This is a robust wine with a spiciness leant from the tannin in its grapes. It is also a classic wine for serving with wild duck or fois gras.

And don’t discount wines from other countries

After all, France is not the only country where game and poultry are eaten! And France is not the only country that produces wines that go with game. If you select a wine from Chile, South Africa or Australia, however, you should pay attention to the type of grape: Cabernet sauvignon and Syrah grapes are undeniably the best for game. Merlot is a suppler grape that will better accompany lighter game and domestic fowl. For that matter, Spain is another wine-producing country you should consider: Spanish cuisine is traditionally based on lavish dishes, and Spanish wines – particularly the ones made with the delectable Tempranillo grape – were bred for this purpose.

Poultry and white wine?

White wine can be the perfect choice for delicately flavoured game and domestic fowl (game with a more distinctive flavour should be accompanied only by a red). You will usually find something to suit you in the Elzas wines. Pheasant with sauerkraut, for example, harmonises perfectly with a Riesling; chicken curry is just made for a Gewürztraminer. But in the south of the Netherlands and in Belgium, roasted poultry is eaten with a delicate white wine such as Monbazillac, Barsac, or even a Sauterne: unforgettably delicious. Chardonnay – a sultry exotic wine from the New World – is dazzling served with poultry and a cream sauce. As you will be quick to notice, the method of preparing the poultry plays a major role in the choice of wine. Chicken in particular can be prepared in many different ways. Chicken accompanied by a sauce made with egg yolks or cream requires a white wine whilst the red wine sauce that is part of coq au vin demands a red wine. Chicken served with vegetables à la Provençe will call for a wine from the Provençe. For an Indian dish such as tandoori chicken, serve a fruity Beaujolais, a rosé or a spicy white Elzas.

Naturally, this is simply a gastronomic introduction to wines for serving with game and poultry. For your final choice, you can rely on these criteria…and your personal preferences.