Tag Archives: wine

Choosing Wines for Wild Boar

SO13--LAnima_PappardelleWild boar have thrived in English forests since Shakespeare wrote about them (in Richard III, the wild boar is the symbol of the main character) and has been popular as a meal in Britain for centuries. Today, boar is farmed and the meat sold in supermarkets, but the taste of a wild boar hunted in the forest is much more lively and gamey than that which you find in the display case at Tesco.

There is a substantial wild boar population in the southeast of England, particularly in Sussex forests, where it is not uncommon to come upon them if you go for a walk. They are not dangerous unless cornered, although British farmers are beginning to complain about the damage they can do to crops. Hunters find them good sport and, according to Mark Boulton, who runs a wild boar shoot on his own land in Beckley, East Sussex, “Hunters love this sport because the quality of the meat is to die for.” Wild boar is tangy, like venison, but not as strongly flavored, Boulton explains, and it has a delicate, almost fruity quality.

So it’s not surprising that wild boar has made it onto some of the finest tables in London. It is favored more by the great Italian restaurants of the city, which prepare it in the Tuscan tradition. We have to cite the inimitable Jamie Oliver, whose Italian restaurant chain now serves wild boar salami, cured in the U.K., and made with a rigatoni pasta and tomato combination. Oliver serves the dish with an Italian Barbera, from the northern Piedmont region, a wine that is full in the mouth, but is somewhat soft, and so doesn’t overcome the light tangy flavour of the wild boar.

SO13-winesAt one of London’s best Italian restaurants, L’Anima, a more complex pasta and wild boar dish is served. This is a wild boar ragout that, in chef Francesco Mazzei’s version, is served on homemade chestnut pappardelle. Sage and carrot peek through the tomato and red wine flavors that dominate the ragout. Mazzei makes his ragout with a wine that few outside Italy have heard of–an Aglianico Irpinia, Mont’ Antico 2010–from the Avellino region just east of Naples. This is an unoaked red wine that shows the velvety richness and intense structure of the Aglianico variety. A beautifully rounded wine with densely packed fresh black fruits and a hint of dark chocolate, backed up with supple but firm tannins, it is again not too harsh to go with the subtleties of the wild boar, but big enough in the mouth to stand up to its tangy taste. For those who seek a more conventional pairing, the Argentiera Bolgheri Superiore is a typical Bordeaux-type blend of cabernet and merlot, but one that is a little less wood-aged than the classic French homologue, so that it is a little softer and goes better with boar.

“It is difficult to find a wine that goes exceptionally well with wild boar,” comments Colin Wills, a wine expert with the London gourmet food website tilia.co.uk (“Uncorked” section).

“The boar has a sweet, nutty, and intense flavour, and this is much stronger in hunted game than in the kind bought in the supermarket. It is also very tender and has a delicacy that pork does not have.”

To complement all of this without overwhelming it, Wills recommends a Barbera, or even a well-aged Barolo from the Italian Piedmont. “The nebbiolo grape aged in the wood does not get as hard as a French cabernet, so it goes better with the boar,” Wills points out.

But there is another, less-well-known Italian wine that Wills especially recommends with cooked wild boar. “Morellino di Scansano is from the Maremma region in the south of Tuscany. It is made from the sangiovese grape, which, aged in the wood, is even softer than nebbiolo. It is far less fruity, with a kind of rounder, more savory fullness which stands up well to the wild boar dishes without being too strong.”

SO13-ragu-cucina-asellina“Then, there are always the great Brunellos,” suggests Wills. Also made from sangiovese, Brunello di Montalcino is one of the greatest Tuscan wines, capable of long bottle age. “After 20 years, a Brunello has a nose of great complexity, and a very soft body, and all of this will go incomparably with your wild boar,” Wills comments. But be prepared to spend more than $150 per bottle.

Is there no truly British way to serve this classically English beast? No people love sausages more than the British, so it is only natural that wild boar ‘bangers’ should find their way onto sandwiches and lunch tables all across the Isles. In fact, served with a great Sussex ale like PolyPin from Lewes microbrewery Harvey’s, John Bull is a pretty happy guy.– Andrew Rosenbaum

Choosing Great Bordeaux with Venison

The region of Aquitaine in Southwest France, of which Bordeaux is the capital, is so rich in deer that public playing fields and cemeteries have to take special measures to keep them out. Aquitaine is, in fact, the richest game region in France, according to the Federation of Hunters of the Gironde, the region just around Bordeaux, so it is not surprising that, for centuries, the great Bordeaux wines have been served with venison, and combined with it in great recipes that celebrate the ‘terroir.’

Eric Frechon, chef at the Michelin 3-star restaurant at the Paris Hotel Bristol, serves the filet of chevreuil with a canneloni stuffed with truffle.
Eric Frechon, chef at the Michelin 3-star restaurant at the Paris Hotel Bristol, serves the filet of chevreuil with a canneloni stuffed with truffle.

A good example, from the south of Aquitaine, comes from the chef Nicolas Borombo, of the restaurant Kaïku, at Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Borombo serves roasted venison rolled into a crunchy crust of chocolate, accompanied with a purée of apple and celery. Over the roast is poured a classic Bordeaux recipe that marries the taste of the wine to the meat: the so-called “sauce grand veneur,” and he serves it with a Château-Guiraud 2009, a Côtes de Bourg, which is a wine that did not get classified officially as a Bordeaux in the 19th century, but that has all the great characteristics of one. Produced around the town Bourg-sur-Gironde about 20 kilometers north of Bordeaux, the Côtes de Bourg boast a robust but elegant structure that is the result of a high proportion of Merlot within the blending.

Eric Frechon, chef at the Michelin 3-star restaurant at the Paris Hotel Bristol, recommends a Château Le Puy Cuvée Barthélémy 2001 for his venison in sauce grand veneur.
Eric Frechon, chef at the Michelin 3-star restaurant at the Paris Hotel Bristol, recommends a Château Le Puy Cuvée Barthélémy 2001 for his venison in sauce grand veneur.

For the classic recipe, many chefs use the saddle of the deer.  They marinate it in a combination of carrots, shallot, onion, bay leaf and the same wine that will be drunk with the dish – no matter how expensive. “One must never compromise on this,” insists Eric Frechon, chef at the Michelin 3-star restaurant at the Paris Hotel Bristol. Frechon recommends a Château Le Puy Cuvée Barthélémy 2001 for his venison in sauce grand veneur. This is a Bordeaux from the so-called “Cote des Francs,” to the east of the city not far from St. Emilion and Pomerol. The 2001 is an extremely elegant organic wine at about $100 a bottle. It has a beautiful round finish that joins with the rich heavy juice of the meat. Frechon serves the filet of chevreuil with a canneloni stuffed with truffle.

Bordeaux wines and venison make a marriage made in heaven, whether you bring them together in a recipe or simply serve Bordeaux with the game, as wine expert Benedicte Trocard of the Bordeaux Ecole des Vins, Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux explains. “The firm flesh of venison provides a strong, almost hemp-like taste, one of great power. For this reason, it is almost always served in combinations of strong flavors and spices. So it should be matched with wine that has a real charisma, real power as well. Some Bordeaux wines fill the bill marvellously, because of the strong tannin, well-formed robe, and great fullness of flavor that they boast,” Trocard explains.

Trocard favors a type of Bordeaux called “Fronsac” to serve with venison.  Located next to northwestern Pomerol and Saint-Emilion, Fronsac and Canon-Fronsac are situated on the clay-limestone plateaus and slopes of the Fronsac region. Deep ruby red in color, the wines’ strong tannic structure combines with main aromas of soft fruits, often enriched by spicy hints, even by truffle, combining subtlety and intensity. They are ropy and distinguished wines that bring together richness and elegance. “You can see how the strength and elegance make them go well with the powerful flavors of venison,” Trocard says.

Chateau Pape Clement 2006 is a Graves wine, produced in the Pessac-Leognan region on the “right” side of the Gironde river. It would complement the spice in a venison dish without becoming overbearing.
Chateau Pape Clement 2006 is a Graves wine that complements the spice in a venison dish without becoming overbearing.

Fronsac is on the “left” side of the Gironde river that divides the Bordeaux wine region, and Trocard suggests crossing the river to find some other Bordeaux wines that go well with venison. On the other “right” side, not far from the airport, is the Pessac-Leognan region that produces the thick, almost syrupy Graves wines, which bring together complex flowery noses, heavy tannin, and deep, fruity taste. These go wonderfully with roasted or stewed venison.

A good example is the Chateau Pape Clement 2006. This Chateau, located  in the village of Pessac,  south of Bordeaux, produces one of the richest Graves  in the region. It would complement the spice in a venison dish without becoming overbearing. While the Pape Clement 2006 would be an ideal (and expensive) choice, any Graves with bottle age would offer many of these fine qualities.

There are those who accuse Bordeaux wines of having too much tannin to go well with game; these gourmets prefer a softer Syrah or a Pinot Noir with venison. We strongly disagree; we think a robust meal calls for a robust wine, and a Bordeaux with bottle age offers complexity and what the French call “du squelette,” meaning, a skeleton that lets it stand up for itself. We think you’ll agree.–Andrew Rosenbaum