Saturday tasting – Winter beckons, and all I can think about is Rhone and Game

As we are getting into the cooler months, two precious delicacies are getting in season. Game and Rhone wine. For the game it is obvious: the animals are in their fittest condition, let’s put it this way, they are in their tastiest shape… And why Rhone wines? It just goes so well with game, like nothing else that comes in a 750ml bottle.I like to think of wine as a seasonal product. This might sound strange for most of you, who always have a preference for one type of wine,  but seasonality is slowly gaining back the field lost to hypermarkets. And as wine is best tasted alongside food, wine too has a time and a place.

When would you want to drink a rose? You wouldn’t fancy it in the middle of the January chill, would you? And when would you like a heavy red with somewhat of a kick and a heckload of tannins? Not in July that’s for sure. As the weather is turning colder, we all turn to our “liquid wintercoats” with great passion.Of course wine cannot be taken removed from it’s main context: food. If your eating habits are pretty much seasonal, so will be your choice of wine as well. For most of the people seasonality means vegetables and nothing else. Unless you`re a great friend of caged chicken you have to realize, that animals have an annual life cycle as well. And this time I am talking about both domesticated and wild.

Game is the ultimate free range, and it matches perfectly with our region of choice, the Rhone. I am talking about the genuine wild born and raised animals. So forget those poor pheasants full of antibiotics and God only knows what else that are breed to function as live targets on some shooting ranges. So if you think of game, you should think of something, that had to survive by itself all through its life. I honor these animals, even when eating them. It`s free range, It`s organic, it has all the magic words. If you have problems with this, maybe you’ve seen Bambi too many times.

I’ve consulted a series of gastro books to find out why is the game gamey? What makes it go so well with the perfect spicy and red fruity qualities of the Rhone? What causes the distinctive flavour and texture? Finally a chef friend gave me the answer. The reason is more exercise. These animals have to do significantly more work all through their lives than their domesticated cousins. The slowly grazing cattle, will never build muscles that are a result of a life full of adrenalin and alert. These dense superstrong muscles of course need to be softened and tendered, so the game are hung for a while. This is the reason for the flavour.

You cannot tell an subregion within the Rhone valley that wouldn’t be perfect with some kind of game dish. This is Syrah and Grenache land (along many other great red varietals like Mourvedre, Cinsault, Burbuleanc etc). In the steep, northern region ypu find more spicy and agressive Syrah on the slopes. As you head towards the south, the landscape is a bit softer, and the smooth and fruity Grenache dominates the wines.

For hardcore game fanatics I would happily suggest to take a look around in the northern region: The Cote Rotie, Cornas, St Joseph, the Hermitage and the Crozes Hermitage yield perfect Syrah dominated wines, that go perfectly well with anything from partridge to boar. First of all, if you go through tasting notes of Syrah, you all too often come across the “gamey” word. A proper Rhone Syrah is rich with spices as well. Whenever people are referring to spice, they get stuck at black pepper. But these wines have a whole spice shop in them, from Pepper to Nutmeg and Cardamom. Therefore you can enjoy a wine that is as full bodied and concentrated with flavours as the roast you are eating. I’ve just came across a fantastic Rhone Red from the Crozes Hermitages subregion called Clairmont Immanence. It is full bodied and smooth, yet surprisingly spicy and rich. So guess what, think I`ll get a second bottle, and a nice venison steak. I think I can’t go wrong wit that. After all, we’re supposed to eat organic, and free range and all that…

Today at Borough Market we will be trying the Chateau Neuf Du Pape and the St Joseph Blanc today, come down to try!

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