The Cellar Restaurant at The Merrion Hotel in Dublin are holding a game promotion in October.
Chef Ed Cooney has devised some superb dishes. I was asked to select wines (chosen from the Merrion’s wine list) to accompany them. Here are my choices, and the reasons for making them:
“It’s a mistake to imagine that game is all about aggressive flavours. Partridge, in particular, can be wonderfully delicate and fine. And when it comes to finding wine to go with it I’d say that farmed deer is more versatile than beef. On the other hand, venison, grouse and wild mallard with their rowdy intensity do cause problems when it comes to finding wines to go with them. To give you a ‘for instance’ I love hefty, old-style Chateauneuf du Pape, Vieux Telegraphe, say, or La Nerthe; I also love venison, slow-roasted with aromatic herbs, juniper berries and bay leaves somewhere in the mix. But if I bring the two together, it’s not a match; it’s a mismatch, with only one winner – the wine gets floored, somewhere around the third mouthful.”
Pressed wood pigeon and venison terrine with apricots and sage
Sipp-Mack Rosacker Grand Cru Alsace Riesling 2000
This exceptional Riesling has had its fair share of attention from FOOD & WINE’s wine colunmists, me included. Goes beautifully with this colourful terrine that’s much more subtle than the ingredients suggest. Heightens the sweetness of the apricots without in any way cloying.
Prosciutto-wrapped rabbit leg with mustard mash and marjoram jus
Chianti Classico La Selvanella 1998
There’s a natural affinity between Chianti and rabbit, especially when you wrap it in prosciutto and cloak it with a marjoram jus, very nostalgic for me. A good producer and some bottle age puts some backbone behind the morello cherry flavours.
Breast of mallard duck, with confit leg, roast shallots, madeira jus and pommes Anna
Plaisir de Merle Chardonnay 2001 South Africa
I thought it would be wonderful to find a white wine to accompany this dish and looked long and hard before choosing the Plaisir de Merle. It’s quite a big mouthful but much more intelligent and restrained than many of its Australian cousins and stands up well to the slight sweetness in the roast shallots and Madeira jus.
Roasted red leg partridge with walnut mashed potatoes, chicory candied onions with its own juices
Palliser Estate Pinot Noir 2001
Any wine drunk with this dish has quite a bit to do for the flavours are complex.The safe route would be to put a right bank Bordeaux in there. Instead I went for the rounded delicacy of this new world charmer that’s rapidly becoming one of my favourites.
Braised haunch of red deer with celeriac puree, roast root vegetables and kummel cream
Chateau Ramage la Batisse, Bordeaux, 1998
Chateau Grand Puy Ducasse, Pauilac 1997
Two choices for this mighty dish in which Ed has allowed the glorious choir of gamey flavours to sing hallelujah with only muted background sha-la-las. Good Bordeaux with well-resolved tannins but with some presence is a must. Ramage is an old flame, ‘humble’ it’s not and I do like the ‘98s. Upscale, the ‘97s are drinking well, so the GPD is the ‘spoil yourself’ option. Lovely.
Salad of tea-smoked mallard breast with rosy grapefruit, peanuts and pickled wallnuts
Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc 1998
Casillero del Diablo Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
A couple of rugby analagies: Mondavi’s classic marketing ploy ‘Oak and smoke’ sells the dummy to the sweet-and-sour accompaniment while making room for the subtly-smoked mallard to play. In contrast, Chilean cabernet, of which this is a better-than-average example, is fruit-laden and combative, able to tackle the grapefruit and pickled walnuts head on.
The game promotion starts on 9th October