The palette of Austrian wine is very colourful, spreading broadly across the palate, offering exciting and diversified possibilities for innovative pairings with game dishes evoking forest and field. The tried and true classic combinations are sure to bring connoisseurs into the right mood to greet the approach of winter and the Advent season. In addition, we can recommend a few rather unconventional partnerships that are sure to delight your diners – well worth trying-out!
In the best-case scenario, the chef is already imagining the wine-accompaniment whilst designing and preparing the menu. In this, it is essential to note which ingredients and aromas determine the character of the dish. Thus it becomes easy to arrive at the optimal wine-partner, whether it is complementing the aromatic spectrum of the food with additional nuances, or reinforcing flavours already at hand. Inventive matching of wine with game dishes is sure to please both, the cook and their dinner guests.
Delicate red wines with very finely grained tannins like mature Pinot Noir or a juicy Sankt Laurent provide classic and classy accompaniments for simply prepared game or wild fowl. Blaufränkisch will do nicely as well, if it is one of the more slender, fruit-forward versions from the Eisenberg, or one with the fine mineral subtleties of the Leithaberg. Juicy and plummy Zweigelt from Carnuntum melds perfectly with dark sauces and tender filets. If spicy aromas come to the fore in the preparation, a more powerful wine can be enjoyable: fullbodied Blaufränkisch from Mittelburgenland, or a cuvée of Blaufränkisch blended with the classic Bordeaux brothers Cabernet Sauvignong and Merlot. These wines also harmonise nicely with fruit-scented red cabbage or marron glacé.
If you prefer a white…
Whether pheasant or hare, drumstick or breast, (s)he who has a hankering for white wine should simply follow their imagination, because whites can dress up a game dish quite handily. But it should be a wine with a bit of flesh on its ribs – something fullbodied. The wine can certainly show extract, could also have a bit of oak in its profile, and even a bit more alcohol, in order to meet a game dish on a level playing field. Particularly fine partners include members of the Pinot family – Chardonnay / Morillon, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Neuburger, or cuvées made from these varieties. Other excellent choices include Rotgipfler and Zierfandler, which have a knack for bringing the aromatic aspects of meat and vegetable together – say, venison loin with a parsnip cream sauce or potato dumplings. Smaragd wines from the Wachau offer elegant and assertive choices; their depth of flavour is on par with that of hearty game dishes. And of course, tightly wound Rieslings or Grüner Veltliners from the Kamptal, Kremstal or Traisental are right up with the Wachauers – their fruit and texture add a sweet and elegant touch to many game dishes.
One splendid table companion for autumn dining would be a robust Grüner Veltliner Reserve from the Weinviertel. Once more, the Grüner Veltliner can show its stuff in ensemble with game – thanks to the variety's multifaceted nature it might even be the perfect allrounder. And do not forget – a Gemischter Satz from Vienna will offer pleasure as well, bringing a full and roundly ripened character to the table. A bit more unusual, but certain to fascinate, would be pairing venison ragout with a sparkling wine; here Austria has much to offer, Sekt of the very finest quality – a reserve Sekt with several years on the lees will have a rich fullness to it, not only excellent as an apéritif but also ideal for drinking throughout the entire menu. And yes: duck and goose liver offer the perfect backgrounds for Austria's brilliant late harvest wines: Auslese, Beerenauslese, Strohwein, Schilfwein, Ausbruch and Trockenbeerenauslese.
All that's left is to wish you the best of autumn's culinary combinations, while thanking Austria's winegrowers for such an unbelievable diversity of top-drawer wines.