Autumn is upon us. We have to admit that we love that time of year when the nights start to draw in and our beloved Manchester gets that bit rainier, purely because it means game season is coming. And with that we get endless fantastic wine pairing possibilities. Sign us up!
There are some great benefits to eating free-range game that not everyone is always aware of. Besides the fact that it's an absolute winner with a glass of red wine, it's a much leaner source of meat than domestic farmed animals and so has a lower fat content. The range of flavours you can get are hugely diverse. Whether you like that pronounced 'gamey' flavour or something a little more delicate, there are so many fantastic options to choose from. A little intel from our good friends at The Butcher's Quarter in Manchester is that it's worth getting in with your local butcher early this year though. After a wet spring and low numbers able to attend shoots due to the pandemic, the quantity of game birds available is lower than a typical Autumn.
Autumn also treats us to the king of funghi - truffles - as well as the last of the wild mushrooms in the UK before the frost sets in. So we thought it would be great to include some pairings for those too.
Grouse are among the first poultry of the season. They're celebrated for their rich, gamey flavour, which comes from their diet of heather high up on the Pennines. Grouse is best served simply roasted with a fresh, fruity sauce. We found this really simple recipe on BBC Good Food using a beetroot sauce which would work perfectly with a lighter, juicier red. The Giuseppe Cortese Langhe Nebbiolo 2019 would be an ideal partner with its bright red cherries and raspberries. Medium bodied and with lovely soft tannins, it won't overpower the bird but can definitely stand up to any fruity sauce accompanying the meal.
Pheasant or Partridge
If you're having pheasant or partridge, then Pinot Noir is also a great option. The leaner, gamey meat doesn't work well with wines that are too high in tannins. A juicy Pinot such as Un Bon Canon with its bright red fruits and silky tannins would work perfectly.
I caught up with Graeme from The Butcher's Quarter about his fantastic red deer venison from Angus, Scotland. The deer roam on an estate of around 2,000 acres of wild hillside, the herd itself dating back to the 1980s. Graeme tells me it's this amazing heritage, the farmer's knowledge and the fact the deer are naturally reared which all leads to such a superior product.
We've picked out a couple of wines below to pair with venison depending on how you prepare it.
If you're going for something like a classic venison loin, cooked rare, with seasonal root veg and red wine jus, it can take a red with a little more weight. A Pinot Noir which has a little earthiness and a gamey, smoked meat character would be fantastic. We'd recommend Folding Hill Pinot Noir which has great dark berry fruits and subtle spices. If you're looking to push the boat out, their Orchard Block single vineyard Pinot is world class, with a little more oak influence and more smoked meat flavours alongside the dark, rich fruit.
If you were looking to use some of the shoulder or neck fillet of Venison, these cuts really lend themselves to long, slower cooking and work great as part of a curry. Jamie Oliver's venison dopiaza, rich in cardamom and onions would work a treat with a complex orange wine such as FIO Jo Jo. This is a German Riesling with skin contact made under the guidance of the great Dirk Niepoort and is a true customer favourite here at Reserve. It's full of ripe tropical fruit, pithy citrus and clean, refreshing acidity.
With such an impressive larder on our doorstep it's no surprise that some of the best recipes are made with a mix of different game meats.
An autumn favourite of mine is the classic game pie. This gem dates right back to the Roman times, believe it or not, and has taken on many guises. Nowadays you're likely to see it in its most elaborate form as a Great British Bake Off showstopper challenge, inspired by the incredibly fancy game pie centrepieces that graced many Victorian dining tables. But whether or not you're feeling artistic, a classic game pie is a great way to try new types of game and use whatever you can get your hands on. BBC Good Food have done it again with a great recipe for a hearty game pie here, which would pair perfectly with the rich, dark fruits and spice you find in wines from the southern Rhone. We think this Vacqueyras from La Cave de Gigondas would go down pretty nicely.
Autumn mushrooms and truffles
Autumn sees the back end of the wild mushroom season, whilst it's still cool and damp but just before the frosts set in. It's also a great time for truffles. Those rich umami flavours we get from various funghi make them great ingredients for warming dishes - perfect as the nights draw in and it gets a little cooler. Happily for us too, they're also a great foil for wine.
If you're lucky enough to have some old Barolo or red Burgundy in your cellars then this could be the time of year to crack them open. With slightly less fresh fruit and more of the earthy characteristics that develop with ageing, these wines are absolutely spot on with mushrooms and truffle. Alternatively Kitchen Stories have an incredibly decadent recipe for a mushroom, truffle and cheese pasta that would work with a rich, creamy white. A good Chardonnay would be great, we'd recommend something like the Epicuria which is full of ripe fruits, creamy vanilla and soft luscious texture.
Inspired to try some Autumn cooking? We've put together a triple pack with free delivery included for anyone having a game feast or just wanting to try something different as the leaves start to fall. Check that out here.