Drinks writer Peter Ranscombe selects five wines to go with pheasant, this month’s star ingredient.
WITH its bright red wattle and distinctive cockerel-like call, the pheasant is a familiar sight throughout Scotland, waddling across farmers’ fields, woodland edges and roadside verges.
Believed to have been introduced to Britain by the Romans – and certainly common by the 15th century – Phasianus colchicus is a perhaps our most easily-recognisable game bird.
When it comes to game, we’re spoiled for choice with food and wine matches, with pinot noir, syrah and several Italian varieties competing for our attention.
A lot will depend on whether you’re roasting or pan-frying or being more adventurous with your bird, and on any fruit accompaniments joining it on the plate.
This selection of reds should stand up to a variety of dishes…
This Sangiovese Loves Pizza, 2017
Does exactly what it says on the tin – a lighter red that will flutter alongside pheasant on your pizza. Indeed, Italy’s Sangiovese grape is a great partner to pheasant dishes in general, with older examples of Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti taking on gamey notes themselves. This bottle comes from Sicily instead of Tuscany, which keeps the cost down, without compromising on the light woodsmoke on the nose and the red cherry, cranberry and strawberry jam flavours in the mouth.
Domaine L’Orangerie De Montrabech Petit Verdot, 2016
For richer pheasant dishes, swap the delicate red fruit of sangiovese for the voluptuous dark fruit of petit verdot. It’s not often you see petit verdot bottled as a standalone grape; it’s most commonly seen playing a supporting role in Bordeaux blends. But this bottle has impressed me again and again, with blackberry yoghurt on the nose and then fresher blackcurrant on the palate, rolling around on well-integrated tannins.
Vina Echeverria Gran Reserva Syrah, 2015
Syrah and game were born to go together, and this Chilean wine’s smoky notes will rub alongside smoked pheasant or crispy bacon. On the nose, there’s plenty of woodsmoke and cured meat then on the palate those meaty tones are joined by blackcurrant and fresh acidity. A lighter style of syrah than those from the Rhone in the south of France, but equally as enjoyable.
Chateau de Meursault Bourgogne Rouge, 2015
Justerini & Brooks
Pinot noir and pheasant are a match made in culinary heaven and this entry-level Burgundy is great value. Hats off to Justerinis for reviving its “en primeur” tasting in Edinburgh, where retailers and collectors gathered to taste the new 2017 vintage and sample some of the current bottlings. I was especially impressed with the classic light woodsmoke and damp hedgerow aromas in this wine, along with its bright red plum and ripe raspberry fruit.
MacMurray Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 2015
The Fine Wine Company
For riper and fruitier pinot noir, head to the new world, like this rich and warming slice of Californian sunshine. Sipping on this blackcurrant-laden red brought back happy memories of visiting its vineyards in Sonoma County back in the spring of 2017 and sampling its excellent chardonnay and pinot gris too.