Need a wine match for your next appetizer of grilled grasshopper? Apparently the nutty flavour of the crunchy critters is best accompanied by a Chardonnay — specifically, an Australian chard, from a curious line called Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch. Sounds a bit Crocodile Dundee, as does word that the Ladies Who Shoot line of wines is expressly crafted to go with wild game meats. Our recent lunch interview revealed that LWSTL CEO Matt Fowles is well-spoken and affable, the antithesis of a bloodthirsty redneck.
Fowles and wine-making partner Sam Plunkett head up Plunkett Fowles, a winery situated in the visually striking Strathbogie Ranges of Victoria. The Ladies Who Shoot range accounts for just 5 per cent of the winery’s production, but has already become an international cult favourite. Now they’re on Ontario’s radar.
The flagship Ladies Who Shoot wine is their multiple award-winning Shiraz. The 2008 LWSTL Shiraz was launched at Vintages in the LCBO last week, priced at $34.95. Down Under, it won the prestigious honour of Best Australian Shiraz at the 2010 VISY Great Australian Shiraz Challenge. (Other Plunkett Fowles wines already in the Ontario market are the Stone Dwellers range, a more conventionally crafted series, available in Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. We tasted their 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, currently a top seller on the LCBO general list. An elegant offering, it’s sure to taste even better after a few years cellaring.)
The core mandate of the Ladies Who Shoot series is, in Fowles’ simple and direct words, “to blend wines to match wild game meats.” He points out that wild meat differs from commercial meat, even at the game level. “These animals roam and are working hard; they’re not penned in and fed corn. Their meat is very dense texturally, very challenging to the palate.” He allows that the idea of creating wine to match the texture of wild meat is “very unusual, and we believe it hasn’t been done anywhere else in the world.”
Fowles confesses that the LWSTL concept started as a bit of a lark (mmm, what wine goes with roasted lark?). “This brand was never meant to be part of the formal structure of our winery’s brands. It was meant to be an offering for me and my mates. I entered the 2006 Shiraz in London’s 2008 International Wine Challenge, for a giggle. It won a big [Gold medal, and Trophy for Best Victorian Shiraz –ed.], and the English jumped on it, including Jamie Oliver. So, this was a bit of an accident.”
Our verdict on the Shiraz? An unqualified thumbs up. Unfortunately, the menu at our lunch locale (the decidedly mediocre) Bohemian Gastropub lacks any game items; still, the Shiraz effortlessly matches the pulled pork sandwich. A second match, at home, is equally impressive; next time I bag a bison (ha!), this will be my go-to vino.
LWSTL’s Shiraz exemplifies Fowles’ matching mandate: “…a very fine texture, highly aromatic. You don’t want the wine’s texture to interfere with that of the meat, but you want that aroma to come through,” he says. Winemaking tools employed to this end include aging in 140-year-old barrels with thick staves, to lower micro-oxygenation and boost the aroma while softening the mouthfeel. Using bat dung as fertilizer is another eco-friendly trick.
Himself married to a lunch-shooting lady, Fowles is a similarly avid (and responsible) hunter. “We live a half-hour drive from the nearest supermarket. We can’t be bothered, so we head out and shoot the food ourselves.” He gets all of his food locally, from the yabbies (fresh-water shrimp) in the winery’s irrigation dam to rabbit, hare (Fowles’ particular favourite), quail, kangaroo, emu and deer. During his Ontario promo vist, Fowles hunted around Georgian Bay, bagging some geese, ducks, pheasants and a partridge.
The growth of the locavore movement and an increasing interest in hunting and game food has certainly been well-timed for these wines. The fact that wild game is naturally organic, antibiotic and hormone-free has real appeal for foodies, and Fowles is an eloquent and passionate advocate for sustainable game-hunting. We may not be able to eat his conquests, but we can certainly welcome his wines here. Can’t wait to sample the Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch Riesling, maybe with their recommended eel in lemon sauce.
Image courtesy of Montana State University Library.