Scottish Field wine columnist and drinks blogger Peter Ranscombe spreads his wings to find five bottles to pair with pigeon.
LOVE them or hate them, pigeons are an inescapable part of Scottish life.
Whether it’s the slightly scabby feral examples that crowd our city streets or the slightly more elegant deep-throated coo of a wood pigeon in the countryside, pigeons rival gulls as the birds that are most likely to split an audience.
Yet pigeon can bring something exciting and unusual to a menu.
It’s an ingredient that always catches my eye and it was fascinating to see the dishes our chefs created for this month’s food feature in the printed Scottish Field magazine.
Les Jamelles Syrah, 2018
Syrah’s juicy dark-fruit flavours are an ideal match for pan-fried pigeon dishes. Hailing from the Languedoc region in the South of France, Les Jamelles’ Syrah has that perfect balance of fruitiness and freshness. It’s made by Catherine and Laurent Delaunay, winemakers from Burgundy who worked in California before settling in the Languedoc and founding their company, Badet Clement. They’ve made wines under their Les Jamelles brand since 1995. If you’re roasting your pigeon and want an extra tannic kick then I’d recommend their similarly dark-fruited Les Jamelles Mourvedre (£8, Co-op), which remains one of my favourite wines in the convenience retailer’s range. And if you’re keen to explore more haggis matches then check out my ideas for wines and for other drinks.
Marks & Spencer
I think witchcraft must have been involved to produce such a delicious Chianti at such an affordable price. Chianti gets a bad rep for being dull and boring – and there are certainly plenty of cheap supermarket examples that fall into that category, which is what made this bottle from Marks & Spencer really stand out for me at the grocer’s spring tasting. Made from a blend of 80% sangiovese, 10% ciliegiolo and 10% merlot, it offers the classic Chianti aromas of red cherry, raspberry, cedar and wet earth on the nose, before leading into more red cherry on the palate, mingling with redcurrant, vanilla and barbecue sauce. The tannins are well-integrated and aren’t aggressive, unlike many bargain basement bottles.
Errazuriz Estate Pinot Noir, 2017
Great-value Chilean pinot noir, with concentrated red-fruit flavours and fresh acidity to cut through sauces. Errazuriz is ever-reliable when it comes to pinot noir – I find a lot of Chilean examples can be very vegetal with unripe green-tasting fruit, but this producer always delivers for me. If you feel like splashing out then trade up to the Errazuriz Aconcagua Costa Pinot Noir (£14.99, Noel Young Wines), which comes from a single vineyard closer to the coast and which delivers even more intense red cherry and ripe raspberry flavours. It’s also a great match with lamb.
Vidal Reserve Pinot Noir, 2017
The Drink Shop
Expressing pinot noir’s darker side in New Zealand, with blackcurrant flavours and a rounder texture in the mouth. Textbooks will tell you that pinot noir produces red-fruit aromas and flavours all the way, but there’s a fascinating point at which pinot exudes its darker side and this bottle from Vidal hits that spot. Made from a blend of grapes from the Awatere and Wairau valleys in Marlborough, this pinot delivers a bit more grip from its tannins than the Errazuriz from Chile, opening the door to pairings with roasted instead of pan-fried pigeon.
Franković Teran, 2015
Don’t try to pronounce its name, simply rejoice in this Croatian red’s silky texture and its affinity for game. The Franković winery is based on the west coast of the Istria region, where it grows a number of native grape varieties, including teran, hailed as the area’s flagship red. I really enjoyed the mouthfeel of this wine, with a roundness from ripe blackberry and black cherry flavours and a well-balanced use of oak for ageing. For something with a bit more of a tannic grip, try the 2015 Madirazza Dingač (£12.65, Winebuyers.com), which also boasted contrasting red fruit flavours. Both are available from Winebuyers.com, a website that connects consumers directly to wineries and which is fast becoming one of my go-to places for bottles. Plus, don’t forget to check-out my drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain, for more on Croatian wines.