Serving up something you caught or shot and want to impress your guests with just the right wine pairing? Your selection depends on the type of fish, fowl or game on the menu, as well the seasonings and cooking method. Whatever the case, your best choice will be a flavourful wine with lots of body and mouthfeel, as it needs to stand up to—and balance—the powerful tastes and textures of your wild offering.
Salmon is one of the few fish that’s fatty and flavourful enough for red wines. I recommend a light red, such as a Pinot Noir or Gamay, especially when you’re cooking with savoury seasonings or using cedar planks or other wood/smoke flavourings. A full-bodied, oak-aged Chardonnay or a dry, crisp rosé can also work well.
Trout are meaty fish, so you could also use a light red if you’re preparing the fish using savoury seasonings or smoke flavouring. If you’re cooking with herbs or citrus, however, go with a white wine or dry rosé. With sweet or spicy elements, select a white wine that’s off-dry with a touch of sweetness, such as a Riesling or Gewürztraminer. They’re perfect for Asian-influenced dishes and also work well if you’re serving trout with a fruit salsa, a glaze or something else with an element of sweetness. Wines that are a touch sweet balance sweetness in food, as well as cool the heat from spicy food.
For pike, whitefish and walleye, a Chardonnay is a great choice. However, you could also try full whites that are fruitier and less oaky, such as a Pinot Gris, Viognier or Grüner Veltliner. A dry rosé also goes well with white-fleshed fish recipes featuring herbs.
Wild fowl has darker, more flavourful meat than does regular chicken or turkey, so it can stand up to more flavourful wines. Although fowl is traditionally paired with white wines, fruity reds can work even better. If you do go with a white, stick with full-flavoured choices such as a Chardonnay or Grüner Veltliner. For reds, choose a Pinot Noir, Gamay, light Italian red such as Barbera or Spanish Tempranillo. Waterfowl has rich red meat with incredible flavour that can stand up to much bolder reds. Select a Shiraz or Grenache (or look for the “GSM” blend that has Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvèdre), red blends from France’s Rhone Valley, a Zinfandel from California or a New World Pinot Noir.
Big, bold, intensely flavoured reds are the best pairing for wild game. Pick a fruit-forward New World wine such as a Zinfandel, Shiraz, Grenache, Malbec, Merlot or Baco Noir. And here’s a foolproof wine-pairing tip: cook with the same wine you’ll be serving with the dish, and the tastes will complement one another. If you’re planning to serve a Shiraz with your meal, for example, use a (cheaper) Shiraz in the cooking process.