Wines to drink with game

The game season is now in full swing with an abundance of pheasant, partridge, grouse, woodcock, duck, venison (does and hinds from the beginning of November in England) and even hare if you can find them. Woodpigeon and wild boar meanwhile can be shot all year round.

So what bottles to open? Not (as with all food-and-wine matching) an easy question to answer but here are a few pointers and recommendations. If you're keeping it classic with simply roasted game-birds plus bread sauce, game chips and all the rest (especially younger pheasant and grouse not hung for too long) then try Pinot Noir (not too mature Burgundy or New Zealand), the best of which combine ripe, dark fruit and a more earthy savouriness. Mature claret (red Bordeaux) would work just as well if you prefer a little more structure and some soft tannin. The more expensive the bird the better the wine it deserves.

For something more hearty, like casseroles and pot-roasts (especially with older birds) I'd head south to the juicy, fuller-bodied reds of the Rhone Valley (Cotes du Rhone for everyday, Chateauneuf-du-Pape or Gigondas even better) or anything else with plenty of Grenache, spicy Syrah or peppery Mourverdre. Tempranillo from Rioja also works well, especially younger Crianza ones without too much oak.  

Venison, roasted without a heavily flavoured sauce, is wonderful with the best Pinot Noirs. If casseroled then try a really good French Syrah (so Hermitage or Cornas from the northern Rhone Valley), or Nebbiolo from Piemonte in northern Italy (Barolo being the supreme example of the grape variety). Cru Beaujolais (especially the ones with more weight like Morgon) can work as well as a good red Burgundy.

Wines like Barbera, also from Piemonte, and Chianti from Tuscany (both regions with a great tradition of game shooting) make excellent, and easily affordable, all-rounders. You can try whites like off-dry Alsace Riesling with game-birds cooked with fruit (apples or quinces perhaps). These are also terrific with duck and goose. Finally, if you have any cold leftovers (or even better, a cold game pie) the only thing to drink is vintage Champagne.