With grouse done and dusted and snipe and woodcock shortly off the menu, there's still a good month until the end of the season for partridge and pheasant. If I could have just one game bird, it would have to be a plump, tender, not-too-gamey partridge, either roasted with a rasher of streaky bacon or pot roasted with bouquet garni and red wine for maximum succulence. Because pheasant and partridge are not fatty birds, they cope well with wines that are relatively low in tannin and not too oaky or alcoholic. Same goes for rabbit.
Rioja, Burgundy, Chianti classico and good mature Bordeaux match well, but a juicy Australian or New Zealand Rhône style can work wonders too, and even, whisper it quietly, South African pinotage. In this vein, the 2007 Signatures of Doolhof, Pinotage, Doolhof Estate, Wellington, £14.50, Berry Bros & Rudd (0800 280 2440), is in a different league from common or garden Cape pinotage, with a richness of plum and strawberry fruit concentration and a stylish vanilla oak veneer, a revelation for anyone who can't bring themselves to believe that pinotage is occasionally capable of making delicious red wine.
From the New World, plump for a moderate, juicy fruit-laden style to complement the savoury, gamey characters of the bird, such as the 2009 Jacob's Creek Grenache Shiraz, £6.64-£7.05, Tesco, Asda, or the distinctive red-berry fruits and peppery qualities of the 2007 Willunga 100 Grenache, £8.49, Sainsbury's. The spice and blackberryish fruit of Boekenhoutskloof's 2008 Le Cap Maritime Shiraz, £12.99, buy two = £9.99, Majestic, is a suitably succulent Cape response. New Zealand syrah becomes classier by the minute with its northern Rhône-ish elegance. A perfect partner here is the 2008 Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Syrah, £16.81-18.99, New Zealand House of Wine, Oddbins, Farr Vintners, a deliciously clove-spicy and richly blackberry-fruited syrah with a twist of the pepper mill.
For good value from France, first try the southern Rhône and the Coteaux du Tricastin where the 2007 Domaine Mas Théo, £8.99, Oddbins, displays the spice and pepper fragrance typically associated with Crozes-Hermitage. Upping the ante, immerse your senses in the liquorice spice of a more serious Rhône red such as the 2007 Gigondas, Les Racines, Domaine les Pallières, £17.83-£21.99, Uncorked (020-7638 5998), Portland Wine (0161 928 0357), Harrogate Fine Wine (01423 522270); or from Spain, the embodiment of great garnacha in Alvaro Palacios' 2007 Les Terrasses Velles Vynes, £26.95, Berry Bros, whose purity of fruit would be Burgundy-like if not for its superior power.
While in Spanish vein, mature Rioja is a fine match for game for its complementary, savoury characters. If you haven't yet picked up the classic 2005 CVNE Rioja Reserva, £13.99, but buy 2 = £8.99, until end January, Majestic, do so. Savoury acidity, the hallmark of the Italian classics, makes them the perfect partners for game, whether feathered or furred. Pheasant, partridge and rabbit chime with ripe, cherry-fruited sangiovese grape and the elegant framework of herby fruit flavours and mouthwatering tang to be found in the 2008 Chianti Classico, Badia e Coltibuono, £13.50, Berry Bros; for a southern alternative, try the brambly "barolo of the south" fruit and pepperiness in the seductive 2007 Aglianico del Vulture, D'Angelo, £12.49, buy two = £9.99, Majestic. Game on.