Grape Pickers Party
At my nearest food market in Herne Hill, South London, there are guys who come in each week from the country selling whole mallard, partridge, venison, boar, pigeon, pheasant and rabbit. They offer whole birds for as little as £3 (but you have to do the prep work on these!). Throughout the winter our Sunday pilgrimage represents the only meat buying trip of the week.
Grilled Partridge with thyme & butter paired with French and Chilean Chardonnay
Rub the thyme leaves, with salt, pepper, butter and lemon into the partridge halves. The aromas just from the thyme are enough to warrant a sip of the wines, who are themselves graciously opening up to the side. After an hour or so I popped the birds under the grill until the skin is crispy and ready to serve with peeled Brussel sprouts and mashed potatoes, onion and fresh ground green pepper corns. No gravy to obscure the food wine magic.
The Louis Jadot Chassagne Montrachet 2013 is an archetypal wine for this kind of dish. Soft textured but with complexity of lemon, butterscotch, balanced acidity, it parries exceedingly well with the flavoursome partridge. This pairing is like an intense passionate kiss that once gone, remains on the mind for a while. It’s the classic “I’d do that all over again” experience.
The second wine we tasted with dish was the Errazuriz Max Reserva Chardonnay 2015. Lovely buttery texture but with more citrus than the Chassagne. There’s a little more zing on the palate giving it more freshness with less complexity but still a fabulous match.
The buttery style chardonnays are the most obvious choices but there are plenty of other choices one could go for. Hot on my list are the more unusual barrel aged alborino and alvarinho wines from Galicia in NW Spain and Vinho Verde in North Portugal. These lovely complex wines exude character and are searching for rich food dishes to pair themselves with.
Mixed game: venison, wild boar, wood pigeon, mallard, pheasant
This rich medley of game meats is such great value and is very easy to prepare. In two sessions, one with mash, one with roasted potatoes, both with steamed Brussel sprouts.
The Mas las Cabes 2014 Cotes du Roussillon, from Jean Gardies has that roundness of red fruit and liquorice and herbaceous character that naturally accompanies the complex range of flavours in the game. This blend of syrah (50%), grenache (30%), carignan (10%)and mourvédre(10%) is dry with gentle silk tannin, brings the meal to life. Again we omitted gravy to allow the food and wine to perfectly kiss… and it worked… they’re still at it, at least in my mind!
The second wine tasted was Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2014 which has a wealth of upfront ripe red fruit and terrific food ready acidity. The extra zing in the fruit and bite of tannin integrate well with the roast potato as well as the meat. The flavour combination is racy, mood lifting and alluring; a musical equivalent of Fela Kuti’s Gentleman!
As we start to eek ourselves out of winter, the available sources of these fine meats will start to diminish, but it is not yet too late. Go hunt them out and have a try. The fridge at home is stocked and ready for this evenings venison paired with Chateau La Caderie 2009 Expression from Bordeaux, an organic wine that I anticipate will satiate the mind until the weekend!
More info on the wines:
Errazuriz Max Reserva Chardonnay 2015 - RRP £15.50
Partridges of Sloane Street, Hailsham Cellars, Ellie’s Cellar, Taylor’s Fine Wine, Leamington Wine Company, Village Wines
Louis Jadot Chassagne Montrachet 2013 - RRP £42.00
Wholefoods, Fountainhall wines, Cambridge Wine Merchants
Mas las Cabes 2014 Cotes du Roussillon, from Jean Gardies - RRP £11
Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2014 - RRP £16.05
Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Tesco, Majestic, Wine Rack, Eagle Wines, Hailsham Cellars, North and South Wines, Cheers Wine Merchant