AS A partial counterbalance to falling temperatures and shortening days, autumn does at least bring us the game season.
Theories abound about the most suitable wine for the resultant dishes, but I will focus on just two grape varieties – and, to keep them accessible, prices start around £9.
With pheasant, partridge and roast venison (provided it does not have an opulent sauce) pinot noir is a good option but do try to choose versions where the tannins are not too strident.
Since Burgundy and Central Otago get plenty of coverage, I shall largely focus on pinot from elsewhere, but if only classic regions will do for you then do look at 2008 Louis Jadot Beaune Premier Cru (£20.99, Waitrose). This blend from about five premier cru vineyards has all the trademark ingredients – earthy, raspberry fruit along with spicy and floral embellishments – but is also soft enough to avoid overpowering those lighter game dishes.
However, there is also presentable pinot west of the Greenwich meridian. For instance, California’s 2011 Clos du Bois Pinot Noir (£9.99 as part of a mixed case, Majestic) has excellent rich loganberry and ripe cherry flavours supported by good acidity and a long, oaky, smoky and vanilla-influenced finish.
Equally, drop down to South America for the even more youthful 2012 Nostros Reserva Pinot Noir (£8.95, The Fine Wine Company, Edinburgh). This is from Casablanca in Chile and delivers floral raspberry and silky red cherry fruit with a burst of acidity to keep everything fresh, a nutmeg finish and a gentle, discreet tannin cushion.
While neither of those American pinots are particularly wimpish, we do need to switch grape varieties for the richer and heartier game dishes. Here, intense cabernets and big Italian reds have their vociferous advocates. While I concede that jugged hare with amarone is a marriage made in heaven, the most versatile option for me is syrah – especially with wild duck or grouse. To keep shopping simple, Tesco has several good options.
Starting where we left off in Chile, take a look at Concha y Toro’s 2010 Marques Casa Concha Syrah (£11.99) from Buin just south of Santiago. This is a dark, full and intense red wine with complex plum and bramble fruit and serious touches of minerality.
For a more expensive option but a traditional wine for game, come back to Europe and seek out 2007 Finest Hermitage (just over £20, which is an astonishing price for wine of this quality). The bad news is that stocks are low but reinforcements are on the way. So, if you are patient, you will be rewarded with all the classic bramble, spice and pepper intensity from this famous – but minuscule – appellation. Folk who cannot wait should try Chapoutier’s Monier de la Sizeranne Hermitage Rouge but that is significantly more money.
Turning to syrah’s alter ego – shiraz – game will work delightfully with the powerful 2010 DGS (£16 from Tesco’s Wine by the Case operation). The initials stand for Dried Grape Shiraz and that drying process substantially intensifies the grape’s bramble and coffee or chocolate flavours to create a rounded, concentrated wine that will surely delight committed shiraz lovers.
Given the way the juices of game dishes mingle with the warm and classy flavours of these wines, perhaps winter is not so bad after all.
2012 Kendermanns Special Edition Riesling Pfalz, Germany, 12.5 per cent
An excellent example of how good (and how different) modern riesling can be. It has fresh, zingy, lime-centred acidity, substantial peach fruit and no evidence whatsoever of the excess sugar of yesteryear.
£5.99 (down from £7.49 until 8 October), Waitrose
2012 Cimarosa Australian Shiraz South Eastern Australia, 13.5 per cent
A brilliant price for a nicely made, smooth shiraz with soft, well-integrated sloe and bramble flavours, touches of almonds and chocolate enhanced by a long finish. The best four quid you will spend this week. £3.99, Lidl