Monday, September 19, 2016

Wine For Game & Fish - Jon Hurley

I saw 'Wine For Game & Fish; The Sporting Wife's Wine Companion' mentioned by Fiona Beckett (if you want a food and wine match she's the first place you should look) the other day and was intrigued by the title. A few moments research revealed plenty of cheap copies available from Amazon market place so I ordered one and it arrived today.

Food and wine matching is theoretically a large part of my job. In practice it doesn't happen enough - for all sorts of reasons. Which is a shame because it's one of the more enjoyable things I get to do at work, and also because I truly believe it's something worth thinking about. If you're having wine with food they'll be more than the sum of their parts if they work well together, both will suffer if they don't.

It's also coming round to the time of year when there's plenty of game in season and most of it's cheap. I might not have The Sporting Wife's game cookbook (though it would be worth looking out for based in the recipes that Jon Hurley is matching wines too) but I do have plenty of other game cookbooks for inspiration and a good market not 10 minutes walk away (will this be the year I finally cook pigeons?). I want to do anything I cook justice, or at the very least have something decent to wash away the taste if it's an abject failure.

Having just spent a happy couple of hours with Mr Hurley I can confirm that the investment was worth while. He has very sound advice about wine generally, it's been fascinating seeing what the wine world looked like in 1986, he's an amusing companion, and the recommendations are satisfyingly comprehensive.

I must admit I've never been so grateful for screw caps on bottles before tonight. I've always thought they were a good thing, but after warnings about having a towel or other cloth to wrap the bottle in when opening to avoid injury in the event of a breakage, and a reminder to wipe away the cork weevil poison from under the lead or foil caps, I'm looking at them with an ever kindlier eye.

Food and wine matching is both art and science. Basically there are sound scientific principles that cover the basics, but however technically correct the match if you don't actually like the wine it's going to be a waste of time. It's also sometimes about getting people to lay aside deeply held prejudices and getting them to think about a wine in a different way. I will only believe that you really don't like Chardonnay when you can convince me you've tried it in a really comprehensive range of expressions, and sweet wines are not poison (though I'm still concerned about the cork weevil revelation).

Meanwhile, for all its 30 years old, this remains an excellent little book full of good advice. The recommendation to pick up a good solid Victorian or Edwardian wardrobe and have it fitted with shelves to make a substitute cellar seems particularly sensible (well, it does if you plan on collecting a few nice bottles), Hurley also suggests bolting it to the floor - he's right, a fallen wardrobe that's bleeding wine would not be a happy sight - and having a key for it. I'm really pleased with it, indeed pleased with it to the point of wanting to get copies for some of my wine loving friends too. It's that good.


  1. I'm sorry but I am captivated by the words 'cork weevil poison' and unable to process much of the rest of your post. In 1986 I wasn't quaffing but I am pretty certain my parents, no strangers to le vin, eschewed towels and probably injested quite a bit of cork weevil poison over the years. Perhaps that explains a few things...

    1. Cork weevil poison bought me up short too. I have witnessed some nasty (drunken) bottle opening incidents over the years, but had no idea about the poison. Wine drinking in the 80's was clearly a dangerous pursuit. He also reassures us that wine merchants are essentially honest, and that what's on the label will more or less reflect the contents of the bottle. That's also something that's improved. I'm really delighted with this little book, both as a practical guide and for what it can tell me about wine drinking now and then. That and Jon Hurley is fun to read.

  2. 'cork weevil poison' and we have just got back from France where a screwtop bottle is a rare creature - if only I had known beforehand!

  3. I'm hoping the poison is a thing of the suspect tighter plastic coverings which are heat sealed into the bottle make the weevils less of a threat than the old lead caps. I'm taking it on trust that it was a real thing and not a scary story to keep the young people away from Hurley's finer wines...