The Great Game
Published by David Adamick on 13/09/2017
As loathe as I am to admit it, autumn is coming. You may have noticed also. It’s been coming since about 28 July, as I make it. And by mid-August I was reminded almost daily of that cruel, soul-corroding British ‘joke’ about ‘summer falling on a Wednesday this year’. Ha ha.
It’s inevitable. So what else to do but drink well and therefore happily, and happily the silver lining comes in the form of wonderful autumnal game offerings to help do so: grouse, guinea fowl, venison, wood pigeon, partridge, rabbit… wild mushroom.
Here are autumnal flavours for the taking, with not-so-little help from those reds which have the guts, acidity and structure to stand up to the deeper, earthy and nuttier glories of the season. But let’s for a moment resist the Pinot Noir default reflex and look further afield: Nerello Mascalese from Sicily. Cantine Murgo’s 2015 Etna Rosso has wonderfully fresh acidity and nice sweet/savoury, zippy and spicy red fruit flavours and also fits in where a good Gamay would. Grown on Etna’s volcanic soils and aged 8 months in the traditional chestnut, just about any fowl will be game with Le Cantine’s cuvée. Get some ceps, chanterelles or porcini involved and things get really exciting.
Moving along the spectrum of flavour we get darker power with wood pigeon and wild boar. Accordingly, things should get weightier with the reds, though with a need to keep that acidity up - Sangiovese being the easy option. But let’s again go off-piste to the curious little Catalonian appellation Costers del Segre (no, I’d not heard of it either). Real freshness and depth to be found in Costers del Sió’s 2014 ‘Les Creus’, an invigorating blend of Tempranillo and Grenache (85% / 15%) giving enough weight and brightness to balance all elements. Red berries, spice, earthy minerality and cleanly finishing off any lingering gaminess. This is right.
Finally, the end game (sorry, I’m almost done) is venison. Big, bold, rich… and though Napa Cab with deer may not be so uncommon, an affordable and fresh expression of the former often is. 2015 Hunt & Harvest Napa Cabernet Sauvignon is black, sweet, deep and supple but with that green pepper typicity to give life and verve to what can sometimes be a cloying experience for the palate when getting through such-sized elements. I return again to acidity and structure: they are here as they must be and all helped along with a wee bit of Malbec, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Merlot in the mix. Weighty, fully-flavoured, refined tannin & freshness, H&H cleans up and redeems beautifully a seasonal culinary experience.
Get on with it, autumn.
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