I'm no more a fan of the so-called Glorious 12th than your average grouse served trussed-up in haste. It seems as unseasonably early for game as the premature kick-off to the football season. October is true autumn and, for me, that means game of the pheasant, guinea fowl and partridge variety. So this week, I'm celebrating the month with delicious autumnal reds to go with our feathered friends.
First thoughts drift to pinot noir: France is not normally the country I'd immediately look at for good-value pinot noir, but the distinctive 2011 Puy de Dôme Pinot Noir from Cave de Saint Verny, £11.99, buy two = £8.99, Majestic, is a pleasurable exception.
Further afield, I find the strawberryish 2011 De Bortoli Gulf Station Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley, £11.99, Sainsbury's, hard to beat for price. I visited the Bodega Chacra in Patagonia and was impressed by their 2011 Barda Pinot Noir, £18.95, Lea & Sandeman (020-7244 0522), beautifully perfumed with fraise du bois with a lively, savoury aftertaste.
Next stop Tuscany, with the requisite savoury freshness that effortlessly complements game and poultry. For chianti on a budget, try the spicy herb and sour-cherryish quality of the 2009 The Exquisite Collection Chianti Classico Riserva, £8.99, Aldi, due on shelf on Monday, and the succulent sweet-and-sour-cherry 2009 Lavacchio Chianti Rufina 'Cedro', £13.95, Harvey Nichols, swig.co.uk (020-8995 7060). For sheer liquid joy, the 2010 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico, £21.50, Worth Brothers (01534 262051), is an exquisite red of subtle fragrance, seamless cherry-and-mulberry fruitiness that finishes beautifully dry.
To linger in Tuscany would be a disservice to Piedmont, land of the mouthwatering barbera grape and great barolo. Barbera's sea-change in quality makes it particularly suited to game and poultry in wines such as the 2010 GD Vajra Barbera d'Alba, £23, Hedonism Wines (020-7989 0085), a wine whose delicate oak rounding out its clarity of red-berry fruits is cut by such incisive freshness that it finishes appetisingly dry. The same goes for the finely oaked, loganberry-fruity 2011 Sottimano Barbera d'Alba Pairolero, £22.95, Lea & Sandeman.
Game birds may be temporarily relieved to know that I'll keep most of my barolo powder dry for the festive season, but if something exceptional to salivate over is required in the meantime, the 2008 Massolino Barolo Parafada, £46, Laithwaites (0845 1947720), is classic nebbiolo, full of the scent of spice and dried violets, with a succulent, spicy, red-fruited quality that's all about class and finesse.