This man on the left will be crucial for this wine-pairing story...
I went out in the woods several weekends in a row recently with hunters I know in the Loire. Most of us like good meat and we sometimes forget that there's an animal behind it. On one hand there is the painful side of shooting an animal, and on the other side, there is the fact that the way this animal lived has a lot to do with the quality of its meat.
There's by the way some striking similarities with the natural-wines' peculiarities here, as brilliant food engineers haven't yet found the way to make the meat of animals having been mass-bred in industrial farms taste as good as the one of wild animals. There's a gap here for which mother Nature seems to resist by clinging to its secrets.
Hunting is both a sport and a way to eat now and then a meat with such a unique taste. Sensible souls can understandly balk at going after these peaceful animals and I myself felt sorry for this cute animal after the initial excitement of the hunting party. But on the other side there are plenty of them in the woods and it's a question of balance when humans take their toll on the gamey population.
the picture above show a scene when the dogs are let go, they're extremely excited : they've been stamping on each other in the cars waiting for the back door to open, they know what they're there for and they like it...
You know when the animals have been discovered by the dogs because they suddenly bark loudly as they run after the fleeing animal.
Here is a short video (2:36) on this combing-the-woods operation with the dogs.
These animals are amazingly beautiful when they run, they look so light and gracious, and their jumps are so long...
This roe deer is running through this field planted with I don't know what, maybe wheat, and it's like if they were running through their dining room here : these wild animals still come a lot in the fields and in the vineyards to eat crops and grapes, and I related a while ago how Didier Barrouillet had to fence the Clos-Roche-Blanche vineyards because the grapes being organic were particularly targeted by roe deers...But when there is no organic farming around, they just still eat all they can, even if probably with less pleasure...
We gathered around the animal, a young male roe-deer weighing maybe 18 kilograms, maybe a bit more. When the dogs reached it, they were excited and the hunters had to wave them aside or they would have teared it into pieces.
We had spotted this weekend and in a previous hunting party several much bigger animals but they were missed.
This roe deer was so cute that I was a bit sad when I saw this innocent-looking little thing but at least it didn't suffer. And most of us like meat and realize that meat doesn't come by miracle in our plates without some sort of suffering on the part of the animals. On the whole I think that hunting is less cruel for the animals than the slaughterhouses with their cold efficiency.
On the picture on left, see the plastic bangle (bracelet) tied to one of the legs of the animal. It is the law in France and these bracelets must be purchased in advance to the hunting syndicates before considering to hunt such or such animal. The color and cost of bracelets depend of the type of animal, and for example few bracelets are issued for large, adult deers and their prices are very high.
We all drove back to the hunters' communal building near the village for the apéritif (video), a kir. That's one of the high points of these hunting parties, a couple of kirs (Sauvignon mixed with blackcurrant) while exchanging about the hunting or simply chatting. That's something that people do more in the countryside than in towns, open a bottle or a bib and fill generous pours just to enjoy the moment.
Later in the afternoon (this hunting took place in the morning) the roe deer was cut into pieces, with one haunch going to the shooter (and ultimately landing in my hands, thank you Jean Pierre !) and the rest being drawn by lots between the other hunters (there was not enough pieces for each of them this time because of the small size of the animal) plus one piece set aside for the owner of the woods were the action took place. That's a nice thing too, because they're not obliged to do that but that's the way they do each time...
I brought back this splendid meat back in Paris, with the intention to make a beautiful, hearty winter dish with it. I looked feverishly at several possible ways to cook it, B. coming back late from work these days. I had all the cooking responsability here and was anxious not to fail...
First, I followed the indications of the hunters who helped cut the meat : the best, they said, was to leave the meat in the fridge a few days so that the contact with the air prepares the texture of the meat properly. So I waited maybe three days before working on this dish.
Back to our roe deer and our "real" Cahors : first, this meat was utterly tender. Unlike the wild boar which is said to have, well, wilder aromas, the roe-deerb is more subtle and refined. The Cahors (we carafed it rapidly after having filled our glasses, the nose being a bit closed at the beginning) has a nice rusticity in the mouth with discreet aromas of jammy fruits, prune, a bit of dry figs maybe. Here are tasting notes in French by Le Rouge & le Blanc for the equivalent cuvée in 2003. The tannins are beautiful here, not astringent at all. After a few minutes in the glass and a few sips, the wine opens itself. Nice ampleness, the carafe helped certainly. B. considered that the Cahors overwhelmed a bit the meat, so the next day (with this size, we had venison every day of the week...) we opened the Fronsac Caudelayres 2005 which was indeed more in line with what the roe deer could handle, it was supple with the Merlot softening the Cabernet Sauvignon. Aromas of blackberry and other cooked small red fruits.
[Edit : Plus, I've just discovered that is is from Nevada City, very close from Oregon House and its outstanding winery Renaissance.... I really love this part of California...]
Sensible persons may avoid watching this video even if this beautiful roe deer didn't suffer.