• Michelle

Wine Pairings for Wild Game

Let's talk a little bit about wine! I for one, LOVE wine. I have a few favorites, as the average wine lover does I'm sure. I love wine for so many reasons; It can be very affordable, it helps mamma keep her sanity, it makes you feel great, it can taste wonderful, it has the ability to enhance the flavors of a meal, and by pairing it or cooking with it, the possibilities are many. Wine, can make a "good" meal into a "holy crap" meal. Although all wines are not to my liking, I am never against trying a new one. I am however a creature of habit and typically stick with what I know.

I know that not all of you may be drinkers. I am, but if you are not, then you can tuck this away for when you have guests, disregard it completely, or try to be a little adventurous. The choice is yours. I love wine. I am not ashamed of this, and I almost always have at least one bottle of wine in the house. If it's cooler I go with a Cabernet or Merlot, and in the summer when it's hot, I love a nice cold Riesling. I virtually know nothing about wine, but in order to provide you with a wonderful list of wine pairings in one place, for your dining pleasure......I have educated myself on this subject, just a little bit. So lets begin.

Starting off, Fiona Beckett at provides us with a wonderful list of 9 wines that pair well with duck. I am going to take her word for it. I am not a big duck eater, but if and when I have duck fresh or in my freezer, I would start here. Thank you Fiona!


Pinot Noir

Whether it’s a fine old burgundy or an exuberant full-bodied pinot from California, Chile, Oregon or the Central Otago region of New Zealand pinot is almost always going to make people happy. (See this pairing for example.) If you’re roasting a wild duck or serving it plainly cooked you might want to go for a more delicate red burgundy*, if you’re serving super-rare duck breasts or duck that has some kind of Asian spicing a sweeter, riper style might work better. Whatever. Think Pinot.


Having made the point about acidity, I have to admit that Merlot, which often lacks it, goes rather well with duck, especially in Chinese-style pancakes with hoisin sauce. A Pomerol would be heaven. A Washington state Merlot would work well here.


Works the same way as Pinot. Good for more classic roasts

Tuscan reds e.g. Chianti

The Italians tend to cook their duck longer - often braising rather than roasting it. Chianti matches particularly well, especially if the sauce contains tomato and olives.

Bandol and other Mourvèdre

The dark, intense smokey notes of Mourvèdre are fabulous with duck, especially cooked with a red wine sauce. Or smoked as in this highly successful pairing

Madiran and Marcillac

Tannic Madiran comes from the same area of the south-west France that produces foie gras - and therefore shedloads of confit duck. It’s delicious as you can see from this pairing but I’m not sure I don’t prefer the lighter, more rustic Marcillac. Or a Cahors.


Serious ‘cru’ Beaujolais like Morgon can be delicious with duck if you’re looking for a fruity, cherry-flavoured contrast (though its fruit may be wiped out by a cherry sauce). Particularly good with cold duck or duck rillettes, paté or terrines.

Late harvest riesling

If you’d rather serve a white with duck, an off-dry German spätlese or other late harvest riesling can be a delicious pairing. Especially if the duck is cooked with apples.


Brilliant with duck curries, especially Thai red curry. Also good if duck is served with fruit such as quince or oranges as in this smoked duck salad or duck à l’orange.

And here is a +1 making 10 that came as a suggestion from wideopeneats , which is a Syrah.


Even if not well-hung, as it rarely is these days, pheasant has a stronger flavor than other feathered game such as partridge or duck. And older, tougher birds are often braised or pot-roasted which calls for a more robust wine match still.

Here are Fiona's suggestions:

For simply roast pheasant served with its pan juices or a light gravy

A good way to show off mature classic reds such as Burgundy, Bordeaux, northern Rhone reds such as Saint Joseph and Côte Rôtie, Barolo, Barbaresco, gran reserva Rioja, Chianti riservas and Chateau Musar (which I was glad to see also recommended in a splendid book called Wine for Game & Fish “The Sporting Wife’s Wine Companion”. Other good quality mature pinot noirs,

For pot roast or braised pheasant

Such as this recipe from Simon Hopkinson. More robust rustic reds from southern France such Saint Chinian or a Côtes du Rhône Villages like a Vacqueyras, Bandol. Rioja reservas and similar Spanish reds (especially with a dish like this pot-roast pheasant with chorizo and butter beans from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Any GSM (grenache, syrah, mourvèdre) blend or straight syrah or shiraz with a bit of bottle age.

For pheasant cooked with apples

Dry German or Alsace riesling, dry Pinot Gris or, if you’re cooking it the Normandy way with cream, why not sparkling cider?

Photo © leekris -


Dove is a rich meat, pairing well with either red or white wine. A Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, or Pinot Noir should suit the dish wonderfully. However, dove is often prepared less as a gourmet dish and more as an elegant hors d'oeuvre as bacon wrapped dove with jalapeno. If you prefer this recipe, it might be better to choose a Grenache or Syrah Rose or even a Domaine Lafarge Bourgogne Rouge 2013

Image courtesy of where you can find the recipe for orange-rosemary-grilled-doves


Quail can be a finicky dish, depending upon the stuffing or sauce you prepare for it. However, regardless of what you choose, an Oregon Pinot Noir, Beaujolis fron France, or a Washington state Merlot should balance it well. Should you prefer a white wine, try an oaky Chardonnay. Try a Nebbiolo or even an earthy Chardonnay. Arpepe Rosso di Valtellina 2013, made only with Nebbiolo grapes, is described as a woodland fairy of a red, fluttering along the forest floor by Dustin Wilson. Dustin Wilson, is a Master Sommelier, start of the wine documentary SOMM and a veteran wine merchant, who also started Verve Wine offers a smart and streamlined wine-buying experience that is as easy as ordering a pizza. Instead of roaming the liquor store aimlessly, you can find a wine that is tailored to your tastes, price point and sense of adventure. And if you eat game meat, your sense of adventure is way beyond wine and cheese.

Photo courtesy of Fernanda and Jakob White


Goose is a funny dish to pair. While the richness of the meat recommends a red Burgundy, the sweet side dishes that traditionally accompany it would do well with a sweet Riesling. If you find that the dish is well balanced between the two, a California Pinot Noir, red Rhone, or Australian Shiraz.

Rich in flavor and texture, goose is often served with sweet sides or sauces. Dustin Wilson says to choose a wine that will work with the entire meal, like a Syrah, and Vallin Syrah Santa Barbara County 2013 is a great pairing.


Being a slightly sweeter meat, a sweeter wine should pair well with it. Try a fruity, California Zinfandel, red or white, depending upon your personal preference. This wine can handle any traditional stuffing options as well as the turkey meat itself.


A robust or dry Red is recommended to pair with rabbit. Pinot noir is a good match as well. For rabbit, Wilson recommends a wine that works with the versatility of rabbit which, although it is considered game, is full of white meat and a milder favor.

His pick is Il Paradiso di Manfredi Rosso di Montalcino 2014. When Rosso di Montalcino is available it offers some of the best value-for-dollar in the wine world. Burgundian Sangiovese is yet another option.

Photography © Steven Joyce


Generally you can serve similar wines to those you would serve with beef though as the game flavor is more pronounced you might want to choose accompanying wines with a slightly gamey flavor of their own. Good examples would be Hermitage, Bandol and Ribera del Duero (or other examples of mature Syrah or Mourvèdre) though be careful of flavor overload with very concentrated sauces. Smoky wines like Pinotage will work nicely, as will medium-bodied reds with fruity notes like Côtes du RhôneChâteauneuf-du-Pape, Chianti, Valpolicella, and Montepulciano Abruzzo. Sometimes it can be better to serve a slightly lighter (though still well-structured) wine when your sauce is particularly dense and rich. If you are dealing with a particularly gamey venison, it is recommended to try a Malbec. It would also match, with gamey pheasant or pigeon dishes, mixed game casseroles and pies and with offal, especially kidneys. Probably stinky cheeses too.

As far as beer is concerned, venison dishes can be an excellent match for porter, a strong Trappist ale like Chimay or a French bière de garde.

Photo © Jeanne Horak-Druiff of CookSister


Elk has a similar flavor profile as venison, but is an even leaner red meat. That being said, you’ll want a wine that can really hold its own in terms of structure and bring out the flavors of the meat – something like a Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon is ideal.

Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou ‘Le Petit Caillou’ St Julien 2011 is Dustin's pick. Nothing petit about this wine. Lots of muscle and grip to hold up to elk and wash it down with lots of juicy, dark berry flavors. (Sounds delish)

Photo courtesy of Jim and Eileen Byrne of Byrne Farm.


Wild Boar is a leaner but stronger flavored and gamier meat than pork.  Due to the stronger flavors, it demands complex and bold wines.'s first pick would be a rich and spicy Shiraz or Syrah.  This dark fruit flavored wine will really show off its richness and complexity when paired with barbecued or roasted pork.

Wild Boar really needs to be eaten practically rare in order to keep it from going dry, and to keep the meat lean.  If prepared in this fashion, complex and tannic reds such as Barolo, Barabresco, Brunello, Cabernet Sauvignon or Super Tuscan will all be fantastic.  A lush Amarone with spicy dark fruit flavor is also exceptional!

If the wild boar leans towards more a well done preparation (such as a wild boar stew) lighter reds, such as Barbera and Dolcetto will be more suitable.

I am sure there are plenty more wild game options out there that I have never had, and am not aware of. If you have a question about a particular meat not listed, I would be happy to google the crap out of it until I find an answer for you!

Fiona has so many pairings on her site for venison, grouse, goat and more, and I urge you to check them out. She is not from here, so many of her suggestions are related to French, Greek and other wines, but with a little digging you may be able to find something that works instead.

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