There are pheasants everywhere at the moment; free to roam (mostly, it seems, on a road near me) until someone does the deed to bring them to a plate near you.
Delicious as pheasant often is, there’s no denying it can be dry too. One of the best pheasant dishes came from my mum’s kitchen; it was the most succulent, flavoursome pheasant I — or any of us — had ever tasted. We quizzed the family chef to uncover the secret of such juicy success and it transpired that a marinade and subsequent roasting in a ‘wee bit of whisky’ was key.
Grateful as we all were, I suspect that poor Dad still wishes his other half had been wearing her specs so enabling her to differentiate between a bit of Famous Grouse and the 18-year-old Macallan . . .
A dram of whisky with your pheasant isn’t such a bad idea but, despite my Scottish origins, I’m altogether happier with a glass of wine with mine.
Pinot Noir is one of the most widely established partners for autumn game birds and whilst there’s no denying the delights of such a partnership, there are some alternatives that are worth a shot.
Firstly, a bit of leftover wine and a surprise pheasant delivery meant that I found myself drinking a glass of AOC Collioure Blanc 2010. I picked up a bottle of this in Marks & Spencer the other day (£11.99) because I’m curious and Collioure is an area I associate with reds more than whites and it’s not something I would have expected to see in good old M&S. This is a full-bodied, oak-aged wine made from Grenache Gris and Grenache. The presence of the Gris gives the wine a distinct pinkish hue and the grapes together deliver a punchy, herbal mouthful of wine with ripe white orchard fruits.
The bird had been served up with some caramelised pears and the combination worked really rather well — a very happy accident, if I do say so myself.
The Wine Society has a very charming, fruit-forward and succulent Chilean red in the Undurraga Candelabro Carmenere / Malbec/Carignan (£6.50 www.thewinesociety.com). What I like about a wine like this with a casserole-style dish is that it has the ability to melt into all the gutsy flavours. I think this is a rather lovely autumn partnership.
My love affair with the wines of Beaujolais is no secret and I stand firm in my view that it offers some very high-quality drinking at good prices.
The taste profile of some of the cru Beaujolais wines isn’t a million miles away from Pinot Noir, so it’s a good option for my third and final wine choice this week. Domaine de la Chaponne Morgon 2009 (£13.99 www.oxfordwine.co.uk) has vivid red cherry fruits, a pleasing mineral quality and bright, well-integrated tannins. Tip-top stuff.