Venison and Wine Pairing #101

Scott Leysath |

Dear Scott,

My snotty friends all make fun of me because I drink white wine with venison. They tell me that I’m missing out on what they call “the complex pairing of a well-seasoned piece of lean, grilled meat with a peppery zinfandel.” What should I do? I don’t like red wine and I really like my grilled deer steaks with a crisp chardonnay. I live in California.

– Not A Snob


Dear Not A Snob,

Yes, your friends do sound snotty, but maybe they just don’t want you to miss out on the joy that a “proper” wine pairing brings them. Or they’re just annoying and pretentious. It’s possible that the red wine you may have sampled in the past just wasn’t all that good. I’m thinking that you might want to give red wine a try, but get a decent one. There are plenty of them out there for about 10 bucks. The next time you’re dining on a venison steak, try a sip of the red wine with a bite of the venison. Then do the same with a sip of white wine. It might take several sips before you are able to make a decision on whether the white wine or the red wine goes better with venison and by that time it probably won’t matter.

– Scott


Much like the folks we know who claim that they don’t like wild game because they were served an overcooked untrimmed deer steak, some of us were served a nasty glass of what was claimed to be wine and it tasted more like what you would expect antifreeze to taste like. Why in the heck would you want to do that again?

If you’re interested, there are a few hints to make your next wine experience perhaps more enjoyable:

– If whatever you will be eating is rich and somewhat fatty, like a well-seasoned venison steak with a creamy sauce, try it with a red wine, particularly one that is high in tannins. Tannins will cleanse the palate and strip away excess fats from the tongue. The flavors of the meat and sauce will come alive. Crap, I’m already starting to sound like a wine snob. My apologies.

– If your meal is on the spicy side, the seasonings can overpower the flavor of the wine. Consider a wine that’s a tad on the sweet or off-dry side.

– The reason you should avoid drinking an acidic wine, like a Sauvignon Blanc, with a creamy dish is that the flavors don’t mix well. Think of squeezing a lemon into a glass of milk. That’s how you make buttermilk, not a good food and wine pairing.

– Match the food to the wine. Duh. That’s the point of this blog. If the meal is somewhat mild in flavors, don’t bury it with a big red wine. Consider something a bit less bold like a Pinot Noir. You’ll be able to taste both the wine and the way the food is supposed to taste.

– Most important, drink the wine you like with the food you like. These few guidelines might make a difference in the wines you choose to pair with the foods you eat, but really, it is your food.