Your hunter friend has invited you to a feast, and you’re in charge of bringing the wine.
It’s not as easy as it sounds. Lean and gamey, wild animals often taste different from their domesticated cousins. When crafting pairings, remember that wines with a bit of age often have an advantage. Here’s a brief guide to pairing with game:
Wild Duck: Expect a very red meat — close to beef — with far less fat than you’re used to in your favorite plate of Peking. California cabernet sauvignon is a no-brainer. We recommend the 2006 Burrell School Vineyards & Winery “Dean’s List” Cabernet Sauvignon from the Santa Cruz Mountains. The wine has a firm backbone, blackberry flavors, and smooth, well-integrated tannins that practically melt the duck in your mouth.
Pheasant: This beautiful bird could make you quit chicken. Wild pheasant begs for a smoky southern Rhône blend. Try the 2007 Marc Kreydenweiss “Ansata,” a blend of syrah, merlot, and grenache that is juicy, powerful, and lends a sense of richness to simple pheasant.
Boar: Everything tastes good with pig. But pinot noir is a favorite — particularly a smooth, savory pinot like the medium-bodied 2008 La Rochelle “Sleepy Hollow Vineyard” Pinot Noir from the Santa Lucia Highlands. The wine’s bright cherry aroma complements the smokiness of wild boar and the acidity stands up to its bold flavor.
Venison: Like elk and buffalo, venison requires a rich red wine. An inky zinfandel, like the 2008 Jessie’s Grove “Earth, Zin & Fire” Zinfandel from Lodi, is the perfect pairing. With chewy tannins, exotic and spicy aromas, and flavors of coffee and black licorice, it will please even the wildest sportsman.