Pete Stewart chooses the drinks to accompany Shirley’s recipes:
WITH rabbit being a milder game meat, my go-to wine match is normally a Pinot Noir from Mercurey in Burgundy’s Cote Chalonnaise. The area is famous for making elegant whites and really rustic, earthy reds which are ideal with rabbit stew. However, as Shirley has gone for a bunny curry, we need to raise the stakes to get the perfect match. The wine you’re looking for should have more body than a Pinot Noir and ideally a bit of spice in the glass to cope with the curry.
You could pick a really nice Pinotage from South Africa. Pinotage was a grape created in 1925 by Professor Perold when he crossed Pinot Noir with Cinsault (known locally as Hermitage, hence the name). He hoped to harness the elegance and flavour of the Pinot Noir with the hardiness of the Cinsault, and he certainly came up with a unique new grape. Although Pinotage is linked intrinsically to South Africa, some of the winemakers refuse to plant it, considering it to be a sub-standard variety. Indeed, over the years Pinotage has suffered from a bit of bad press with some people in the trade dismissing it because it’s not one of the noble French grapes. You could argue that it is, in fact, two of the noble French grapes, and I think the good examples from producers such as Kanonkop are excellent. They also work really well with a full-flavoured rabbit dish.
Kanonkop Estate Black Label Pinotage 2013 (Majestic, £130). This is a massive step up from their “standard” release (which comes in around £30). The grapes that go into the Black Label come from bush vines planted in the 1950s, and the wine sees 18 months in new French oak barrels before release. At £130 per bottle, it’s arguably not an everyday wine but if you’re a fan of the style you’d be hard-pressed to find a better one.
If you’d prefer something under the £100 mark, try a bottle of the Beyerskloof Reserve Pinotage 2016 (Majestic, £10.99). This is a spicy wee monster weighing in at 14% ABV (alcohol by volume) and is ideal with Shirley’s rabbit curry.
You’ll also find good bottles of “house” Pinotage around the £7 mark in your local wine emporium. These tend to be good, everyday gluggers with decent upfront fruit but without the leathery, bonfire complexity of their more expensive peers. They highlight the versatility and accessibility of the grape without overly worrying your wallet.