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Wild game and wine

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By Marco Giovanetti

 

As the days become shorter and the night’s cooler, most people think about hibernating on the sofa in their free time. For many hunters however, it’s time to get outside.

For animals in the wild, survival during these cold months forces them to lower ground, which makes fall and winter one of the best times to hunt (if you’re able to handle the atrocious weather, that is).

Venison is the best, but there are others that require special mention. If you’ve tried rabbit and thought it tasted a bit like chicken, it’s time to step it up in the fast-moving hopping realm. Hare is undoubtedly one of the best red meats money never buys. If you get the opportunity to try this ‘pest’ – do it. Eating hare may be one of your most monumental food moments (like it was for me). I also recommend Pheasant and Partridge.

If you’re not into hunting, or not lucky enough to know any generous hunters, there’s plenty of farmed game available in the supermarket. When we see venison on the shelf – it hasn’t been living in wild bush seeking food; it has been kept in a very relaxed, no stress environment. This venison is mild in flavour and if you’re new to this meat, it is a great place to start.

The other main game animal we find in the supermarket is duck. The three types of duck races found in Quebec are Musque, Pekin and Mulard. They are raised in farms and cannot fly. So again, the flavours are a lot more subtle than from those that fly around in the wild.

Now that you are an expert on the difference between what we get in a supermarket versus what we get in the wild, I can start to make some wine recommendations. To be fair, I don’t think there is any need to differentiate wines for wild and farmed animals, just understanding the difference between the meats is the key.

Duck screams pinot noir. For a suitable wine match I would look to something from Burgundy. Givry or Aloxe Corton comes to mind. Those wines are fruity enough but also showing lots of flavor complexity. In addition, they are easy on the tannins, but rich in the mouth – ensuring a harmonious match with the complex taste of duck meat.

Venison is a little different to duck in how it is presented at the table – it should always be served rare. If it is overcooked, it can be a little tough and chewy. Don’t let this stop you, but remember that you can never take it off the grill too early. Even if the meat has only been seared on the outside it will look and taste like a chef of 30 years’ experience has prepared it.

 

Venison can be very versatile with wine matches, Tuscan Cabernet, Spanish Tempranillo or French Syrah will work very well. Just pay attention to the tannins and oak level of the wine. They can overrun the delicate taste of the meat.

This brings us all the way back to hare. It’s the one game meat that when you try and tell someone how good it is, they have this bewildered look on their face. Tell them it’s a red meat and they become even more confused. If you have not tried hare, the best thing to do is not start thinking of it as an oversized rabbit. Rabbit meat is white, but hare meat is red – so you begin to see where the confusion arises. For hare I would look to a red Bandol or a Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Both wines would provide a decadent match to remember.

I would suggest trying hare next time you are in a restaurant and see it on the menu – and I would love you to tell me what your thoughts are if you have been lucky (or brave!) enough to have already tried it?

Many thanks to Sandrine Balthazard and Martin Dubé for their patronage for this week’s wines. Without their generosity, this week’s wine review would not have been possible.

Wines of the week:

 

Domaine du Clos Salomon Givry Premier Cru Clos Salomon 2011. Burgundy, France. Price: $31.50. SAQ CODE: 00918086

Decadent nose. Aromas of very ripe red fruits with oak and nuances of herbs such as thyme, spices and delicate notes of animal, earth, mineral and black truffles. In the mouth, full body and austere with dense tannins and well balanced. However, the wine has a rustic flair to it Flavors that come to mind remind me of strawberry jam, raspberry jelly with touches of anise, earth and forest leaves. Oak is present but not intrusive. Long aromatic persistence that reminds of raspberry-blueberry and a bitter tannic finale. This is an infant wine that it is still developing. Fantastic value for burgundy. Still developing. Buy by the case and keep its development for the next 10 years. 95100. QPR

Food Match: Confit de Canard and Chanterelle-Foie Gras Risotto.

 

Arzuaga Crianza 2009. Ribera del Duero, Spain. Price: $30.75. SAQ CODE: 10271998

Heady nose. Oaky bouquet with potent aromas of cassis, black cherries and blueberries. In addition, vanilla and torrefaction aromas of coffee liquor and cacao powder with hints of violets, black truffles, licorice and menthol. In the mouth, powerful and rustic with a big structure with ripe tannins. Bordeaux in character but lacking at this stage some balance. With time, it may be corrected. Flavors reminds me of iron with dark chocolate and jammy black fruits. Very long finale with an aftertaste that reminds me of halzenut-cofee cake and herbs. Old Style Ribera meets modern style. Terrific value.. Very young wine showing lots of promise for the time ahead. Buy by the case. 90100. QPR

Food Match: Deer Medallions with red and black berries sauce.

 

Domaine des Sénéchaux Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010. Rhone, France. Price: $42.00. SAQ CODE: 11171155

On the nose, very complex reminding me of black fruits, strong minerality, cocoa powder with marked balsamic notes. In the mouth, full body with big and tight tannins. Flavors remind me of cherries in brandy with licorice, animal and dark chocolate notes. The finale is very long and remind me of spices. Needs time in the cellar. 10 years-more. 90100.

Food Match: Roasted Pheasant with Fennel and Roots vegetables.

 

 

Podere Sapaio Volpolo 2010. Bolgheri, Italy. Price: $27.85. SAQ CODE: 11002941.

On the nose, aromas of ripe cassis, aromatic blueberries, forest leaves and bell pepper notes. Oak is present but well integrated. In the mouth, the wine is full body with a solid structure and high pitched abrasive tannins. Powerful and austere yet balanced by a high acidity. Flavors remind me of dry black fruits and menthol. Lingering aromatic persistence with a robust finale. Carafe 2-3 hours prior to serving. Buy by the case and keeps its development over the next 10-15 years. 90100. QPR.

Food Match: Pappardelle with Hare Sauce.

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