Rosé And Game: The Food & Wine Pairing To Try In 2024

By Sarah Hyde

7 months ago

Stay ahead of the cuvee


Looking for the perfect wine to pair with your game this season? Try pink champagne, says Sarah Hyde

Rosé And Game: The Food & Wine Pairing To Try In 2024

Over the last month, I have been pairing vintage and deeper pink champagne with game – venison, pheasant and wood pigeon. My desire was first captured by sommelier Terry Kandylis and his comments about wood pigeon and vintage Dom Perignon, and I was determined to take the next step. Of course Terry was right, and what I discovered was a pairing that is a game changer. The velvety soft bubbles and round fruity flavours of these elegant and finely balanced wines – so different from crisp acidity of champagne, or the full body of heavy reds – support and complement the delicate sweet flavours of game and allow them to shine. 

Although this is still a very niche pairing combined with the renewed interest in Saignée Rose champagne (a wonderful conversation point for those who indulge in wine chat), this combination is slightly ahead of the cuvee… but isn’t that where the fun lies? The quality and celebratory nature of the wine elevates the game, and the lightness and lack of tannin changes these meals from hearty, heavy and dare I say slightly ‘male’ to light, elegant, refined and dressed up. It’s worth going through your cookery books and searching for fine cuisine recipes – it takes longer and costs a little bit more, but the outcome is worth it. The venison wellington recipe from Pall Mall 67’s book, The Wine & Food of Bordeaux, is certainly one I will be trying again.

Pairing game with these superb and celebratory wines, it is possible to elevate these meals into truly elegant dinners, leaving earlier roasts, with flavours drowned out in bacon and thyme, back in the dark ages. Even if you do not change your mind forever – next time someone presents you with a brace of something, try it.

Venison steak with vegetables

Getty Images

Why Does Pink Champagne Pair Well With Game Meat?

The reason this works so well is that pink champagne, which predominantly features pinot noir, contains very little tannin, so it is light, yet velvety, fruity and dry. The brief contact of the skins with the wine gives a tiny bit of body, but it is almost as though it is stripped bare, a nude version of Pinot Noir, if you compare it to a red wine. The velvety texture complements that of the venison, fractionally firmer in structure than white champagne, much less acidic. The higher levels of Pinot Noir ensure it is much fruitier and spicier, but the real magic lies in its weight – here the game can be enjoyed without any heaviness. 

Pink champagne is often associated with sweet foods, but to pair with savoury foods, opt for dry and vintage wines that allow the flavour of the meat to shine. Pink champagne makes eating game an elegant and luxurious experience and with careful preparation you can create sophisticated memories that will go well beyond any superficial Instagram photographs.

This is an especially good pairing for anyone who does not enjoy heavy Bordeaux red wines, although the problem with drinking wines of this quality is you may get used to them.

In my own tastings I paired the wines with a delicious loin of venison. The delicate flavours of the chicken mousse, ceps and spinach allowed the venison flavour to shine. What was so amazing about this was, despite the wonderfully richness of the food, it is not heavy – you could definitely go dancing after this meal.

What Do The Sommeliers Say?

I discussed this with Craig Bancroft, Managing Director and Wine Director at Northcote, sister restaurant to The Game Bird at the Stafford. He agreed that a lighter approach in the food preparation to match the delicacy of the wine was vital, and this is where the magic lies.

Northcote hotel

Northcote

‘When pairing game with rosé champagne, for instance partridge or rabbit, then straight away in terms of the culinary execution it would need to be a lighter style dish. For example, if you were using lighter game, like in Lisa’s rabbit turnover, then she would do a lighter style sauce without using pickles, and we have used champagne with that in the past. Rosé champagne would go well with a dish like this.

‘For lighter game, I would suggest the Louis Roederer Brut Rosé 2016. It is elegant and very, very gentle on the bubbles. The acidity of rosé champagne and the notes you would get behind it would come through nicely with a light style sauce, based on a white wine rather than a red wine-based sauce.’

‘This Louis Roederer Rosé is a wine with a great deal of finesse and gentle bubbles, which are intense and fresh. There’s a good balanced acidity and it has a super expression, which also has a good mouthfeel. It’s light and balanced and it has a saline hint in its after palate. Because the balance is 62 percent Pinot Noir, it has the classic undertones that go really with the white game meat. It works because you have the Pinot Noir grape coming through, which would be a classic combination in terms of choosing wine for game.  

‘I don’t think a rosé champagne would work with the darker style meat such as grouse or hare, however a rich full-bodied rose would work with something like a partridge or pheasant en croute, or a partridge wellington.’ 

My curiosity was piqued, so I reached out to Agnieszka Swiecka, Head of Wine at Mount St. Restaurant, who suggested going for vintage champagnes. 

‘Venison meat is deep flavoured, gamey, lean and elegant, giving a lot of opportunities to pair with fine wine including vintage champagne. It would pair well with vintage champagne such as Louis Roederer Rosé Vintage 2013 served from a Magnum. This Pinot Noir dominant champagne with notes of sweet wild strawberries, peppery midpalate and a fine silky finish, can easily stand shoulder to shoulder with the tender venison.‘The acidity cuts through richness of the protein and acts like a palate cleanser, ensuring each mouthful of the dish will have the same intensity of flavour. Pinot Noir provides good structure and as the vintage champagne ages it develops even more complex savoury notes that can elevate the pairing further.’

Both Mount St. Restaurant and Northcote are serving game over the holiday period if this is not something you want to try at home. The selections I have made below range from traditional velvety dry pink champagnes to a Saignee Rosé Champagne, a deeper red which will pair best with deeper red game. As a rule of thumb, the deeper red the meat, the better it will pair with higher ratio Pinot Noir champagnes.

Best Rosé Wine To Pair With Game

Perrier Jouet Blason Rosé