Friday, November 23, 2012

Hunting, Venison and Wine

The following article appeared in the November 2012 Deer Hunting Special Edition of

Hunting, Venison and Wine

What more do you need?

By Harold Green

One of the great parts about hunting is that at the end of the day you get to sit around a campfire or fireplace with friends and talk about the day’s hunt, sports and your family. Often these conversations include a few beers or a little harder adult beverage to keep the cold away. I have a few friends who always drink brandy while smoking cigars. And I for one would have a glass or two of red wine. 

While I like bold reds, one of my friends always drinks White Zinfandel. I kid him about drinking “Pinkie,” but when you think about it, a good wine is any wine you like. Since White Zin is the number one wine sold in the US, my friend has a lot of company. So when people tell me they don’t like wine, it’s usually because they have a built in negative impression of wine and they just haven’t found one they like. But it’s out there!

Wine and Venison Have the Same Problem of Perception

A lot a people like to hunt but not as many people like eating venison. Usually, this is because it’s not prepared well or people have a built in view that they won’t like it. Several years ago we made venison chili for our neighborhood New Year’s party but didn’t tell anyone it was venison. Sure enough, all the chili was quickly eaten and everyone kept telling us how great it was.

While I love venison chili and sausage, my favorite dish is barbeque venison. I have great memories of going with my dad to a neighborhood gas station where the owner had barbeque venison cooking for his customers throughout deer season.

So when people tell me they don’t like venison I tell them they just haven’t found the venison dish they like. Which brings me to the point of this article.

What’s a Good Wine to Go with Venison?

My first answer is that if you have a wine you like, try it with your favorite venison dish and you may find that they are the perfect match for you. That said, here are some basic rules when pairing wine with venison.

In general, medium-bodied but firm red wines go well with venison. But if you’re having a spicy venison dish, try a medium-bodied softer red wine. These would include Australian Shiraz and Cabernets, most American Pinot Noirs and less pricy California Cabernets, Merlots and Zinfandels.

For richer venison dishes I always go with full-bodied, intense red wines like a good California Cabernet. In fact with venison, that’s my wine of choice. However, good Zinfandels, especially the ones that have a hint of spice and peppery flavors, also go very well with richer venison meals. 

Cabernets are at the top of the food chain when it comes to red wine. They have wonderful flavors of blackberry, chocolate, blackcurrant with hints of tar and leather. Cabs can be fruit forward wines that are very easy to drink or they can be intensely complex wines that are big and bold with strong tannins. I for one think the bold ones go best with venison.   

Want to Walk on the Wild Side?

If you’d like to branch out a little, try an Italian Barlo or Barberesco. Italian wines are made for food, because they have it with almost every meal. As an Italian friend once told me, “Americans and the French like to talk about wine, Italians like to drink it.”  

Barlo and Barberesco are both made from the Nebbiolo grape grown in the Piedmont area in Northern Italy which is known for its red wines. The Nebbiolo grapes bring smooth intense flavors with aromatic and savory notes of truffles, liquorice and smoke.  These two wines are very robust reds, very dry and high in tannin, acidity and alcohol. And unlike most Italian wines, they are full bodied with Barolos being the most full bodied. They go especially well with venison steaks and roast.

And while I am not a big French wine drinker, wines from the northern Rhone region of France like Hermitages and southern French Syrahs pair well with venison dishes because they often take on the rich earthy qualities that go well with venison.

And I would be amiss if I left out Tempranillo, a Spanish wine that usually has the flavors of red fruits like cherry and strawberry with hints of leather and earth.  Tempranillo grapes love hot weather and are quickly becoming the favorite wine of an expanding group of Texas wine producers where I live! So if you happen to be in Texas, pick one up on your way home from your deer lease!

Hopefully I haven’t completely confused you about wine and venison. They both go very well together. You just need to find the wine/venison combination that you like the best. And the search is not only fun, but well worth the effort! 


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Friday, November 16, 2012

What’s The Right Temperature For Serving Wine

Room Temperature….If You Live In A Castle!

Wine is usually served at the wrong temperature and that especially goes for wine you get at bars and restaurants. I’m always amazed when I order a glass of red wine and it arrives hot!

I once decided to find out why red wine was served hot, and the answer turns out to be simple. Most bars leave their open bottles of red under the bar lights, which turn into heat lamps for the wine.

The opposite is true of white wine; it’s usually served way to cold, so cold in fact that it’s hard to actually taste the wine. Bartenders keep them in the bar’s refrigerator that must be set to North Pole!

So what temperature should wine be served, especially when you’re having guests over? The common answer for some reason on red is room temperature. At one time that may have been correct. Let’s say in the 1200s or 1300s, if you lived in France, in a castle. And that would only be true if it was noon on a hot summer day. Unfortunately most of us don’t live in French castles!

Today room temperature is about 70 F which is way to warm for red wine. Serving it at that temperature will make the wine hot, flat and lifeless. You may even feel a burning sensation from the alcohol, and with the high alcohol in today’s wines that is not a good thing!

The colder the better when it comes to white wine is often the norm. The trouble with serving it cold is that cold takes away from the true taste of the wine, which is only good if it’s a bad bottle of wine! The better the white wine, the less cold it should be to get the true taste of the wine. Any white wine served cold will taste lighter and much less flavorful.

So what is the correct temperature for wine?

Most bottles of red wine should feel very cool when poured. A good range would be 62 F to 65 F. But lighter red wines, especially fruity ones should be served slightly chilled at around 58 to 60 F.

And a nice quality white wine should be served chilled not cold. A good range for these high end whites would be 58 F to 62 F. Less expensive white wines, rosés, blushes and sweet wines should be served colder between 50 F and 55 F.  However if you like your white wine cold, like a refreshing beer, then by all means serve it colder in the 48 to 53 F range. What you lose in flavor you’ll make up by enjoying the wine the way you like it!

You don’t need to carry a thermometer around to serve your wine at the correct temperature. Just feel the bottle and over time you’ll get it right. But a good trick with red wine is to put it in your refrigerator for around 15 or 20 minutes before serving. Expensive whites should not be stored in your fridge. Instead all you need to do is put them in for about 30 minutes, but remember you need to keep them chilled between pours.

For less expensive whites, sweet wines, blushes and rosés, as well as those of you who want your white wine colder, then keep them in the fridge and just take them out about 30 minutes before serving.

Ok, there you have it! Now you know the correct temperatures and the tricks to serving it right. Now go have some wine with friends and enjoy all it has to offer!


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Friday, November 9, 2012

Picking The Right Wine For Thanksgiving & Christmas Dinner!

Making Sure The Wine Isn’t The Real Turkey At Your Holiday Dinner!

To make Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner more festive many of us will be serving wine. But what wine goes well with turkey? Now hold on, not so fast, you also need it to work with yams, mashed potatoes, green beans, casseroles of all types, cranberry sauce and in many cases ham.

Then throw in dressing or is it stuffing to complicate your wine choice.

Dressings are all over the place.  At our house we have cornbread dressing. Our daughter-in-law loves a breadcrumb stuffing and one of my friends always has oyster dressing.

Let’s face it holiday meals offer different flavors, smells, textures, spices, lite foods and heavy ones, and don’t forget the desserts. No wonder people are confused about which wine to serve.  Red? White? Sparkling? Do you have one wine for the whole dinner or choose different ones for the different courses and tastes?

So to help make sure the wine is not a turkey here’s some easy pointers for the type of wines that go well with that big bird and everything else on your table.

Medium bodied wines that are well balanced with low acidity and or low in tannins go well with holiday meals. You’re looking for wines that won’t be overpowered by the heavy foods and won’t overpower the lighter foods. So bold Cabernets and acidic Sauvignon Blanc are usually not the best to serve and personally I wouldn’t bring out a Chardonnay. But fruitier wines with lower alcohol will go well with the turkey and everything else.  

Champagnes and Sparkling Wines are great!

I personally think champagnes and sparkling wines are a great choice, especially those made from red grapes like Pinot Noirs because they can handle the heavier foods and the lighter ones. Also pick extra dry over Brut because they're actually not as dry as Brut and are softer with more fruit flavors.

Try a Rosé!!
Rosés are also a great choice. They are an excellent bridge between white and red wines. They are light, crisp and flavorful with lower alcohol.  A dry Rosé made from Syrah, Grenache, Pinot Noir or Zinfandel grapes will go well with all your dishes. 

Get a sparkling Rosé and have the best of both worlds. And there are some really nice Italian sparkling Rosés.
White Wines will be a hit!

The white wines that will go well with all your holiday dishes should be well balanced, refreshing and fruity. Consider serving the following to make your dinner stand out for you and your guests.

Riesling: Sweet or dry, they are spicy and fruity with hints of apricot and peaches with floral fragrances.

Gewurztaminer: The name means spiced and they do have notes of nutmeg and clove. They can be sweet or dry; I like the dry ones best. They also have very aromatic hints of floral.

Pinot Grigio: Dry wines with fruit flavors of pear and apple with hints of lemon and mineral. They can be light or medium bodied.  

Viognier: fruity and floral with apricot, pear and peach with a nuttiness and undertone of spice. Very low in acidity.  

Now how about a red to make your dinner perfect!  

Red Wines are a little harder to pick than white because they are usually dryer and higher in alcohol. However the right ones can really add to your holiday dinner. The reds that will go with all those flavors on your table are the following:

Pinot Noir: fruity with cherries, plums, raspberries and strawberries.  

Syrah: Spicy with black pepper. Some are fruity and some smoky.

Beaujolais Nouveau: dry wines that are light, fresh and fruity.

Zinfandel: Intense wines that are plummy and jammy with hints of pepper and spice. Choose one with low alcohol.

Grenache: Light to medium body wines that have abundant red-fruit flavors of currant, cherry and raspberry.    

Dessert you say!!

All of the wines I’ve mentioned will go well with desserts, especially the champagnes and the sparkling wines. However if you insist that you need a desert wine, try a Port. They're fortified wines that are sweet with a fruity raisin taste. They’ll be great with all the sweets, and they really go well with pecan and pumpkin pies.     

Have a Great Thanksgiving!

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