The widely varied palette of wines from Austria is as colourful as the foliage in autumn, offering many exciting options for creative combinations with the wild game of field and forest. Whether white, red, rosé, sweet or sparkling, light or assertive, young or mature, the manifold variety of Austrian wine offers immeasurable pleasure, while experimenting with new pairings is so rewarding!
Venison, pheasant or hare – these are most likely the types of meat where origin is most strongly emphasised: grown on the local forest paths, hunted by the county’s sportsmen and ultimately prepared in the village inn or at home. And with its wide range of wines, Austria emphasises origin at every level.
The savvy chef will be thinking about the accompanying wines when preparing the meal. It is important here to consider which ingredients and flavours determine the character of the dish. Optimal wine partners can then be imagined, whether they expand the aromatic spectrum of the flavours with additional notes or emphasise existing ones with similar aromatic material. The combination of game and wine should prove a rare pleasure for you and your guests.
Classic: red wines
Elegant red wines with finely grained tannins – such as a mature Pinot Noir or a juicy Sankt Laurent – are classically noble companions for simply prepared red meat from the forest. Blaufränkisch also cuts a fine figure, whether a lean and spicy bottling from the Eisenberg or a mineral-driven Leithaberg. Juicy, sour-cherryish Zweigelt from Carnuntum blends well with dark sauces and tender fillets. If the meat shows spicy flavours in the preparation, the wine can be a little more powerful: a full-bodied monovarietal Blaufränkisch from Mittelburgenland or a Blaufränkisch cuvée blending in the Bordeaux brothers Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, for example. These wines also match up well with the fruity scents of red cabbage or with glazed chestnuts.
For those who prefer whites
White wine can show very well alongside game dishes. However, the wine should be a little more opulent. Pinot family varieties from the Steiermark such as Chardonnay (Morillon), Weissburgunder or Grauburgunder are grand, as is Neuburger. Rotgipfler and Zierfandler are two indigenous specialties from the Thermenregion; their pleasant acidity and fine bouquets, paired with substantial body, come together to achieve impressive heights of harmony. The fruit and texture of concentrated Rieslings or Grüner Veltliners from the Wachau, Kamptal, Kremstal or Traisental impart a fine and elegantly sweet touch to many preparations of wild game. A powerful Grüner Veltliner Reserve from the Weinviertel is a companion that some folks would never want to be without. Wiener Gemischter Satz from Vienna is also quite enjoyable, provided the wine is mature and a bit on the richer side.
If your game wants to get a little wilder...
During hunting season, local palates can discover for themselves something that top sommeliers on the international stage have long recognised: Austria’s natural wine scene delivers distinctive, characterful bottles that do beautifully as exciting accompaniments to flights of culinary fancy. Here, philosophies are as different as the winegrowers themselves. But it is usually agreed that the distinctive character of the place of origin should be prominent in the wine, without much in the way of human intervention. Even if this approach might seem a bit wild to some, game dishes offer the perfect opportunity to discover alternative wine styles that offer vibrant acidity, lively fruit and noteworthy texture.
Pick your pleasure: sparkling or sweet
It is probably even more unusual to accompany something like a venison ragout with sparkling wine, but Austria has an abundant selection of top quality Sekt on offer. The carbon dioxide in sparklers acts as an aroma enhancer and elevates flavours to new pinnacles of pleasure. Sekt g.U. Reserve or Grosse Reserve with several years on the lees will be rich and complex; these wines excel not only as an apéritif, but also do quite splendidly running through the entire menu. And on another end of the Austrian wine spectrum, elegant sweet wines can also be ideal. Their sweetness serves to offset the savoury element in certain dishes and complement it with a balanced interplay of fruit and acidity.
The field & forest playlist
The right mood for the wine: your fine meal should not be missing some appropriate music. To bring the spirit of the hunt home to your wild boar, hare or venison on the table, you will find a Spotify playlist here to listen to, and to enjoy along with a good glass of wine from Austria.
Have fun; cheers!