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.
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?
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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