What to Drink with Wild Boar
Big, ugly, angry pigs have been marauding through the bucolic vineyards of Tuscany in ever-growing numbers. Short of buying a boar-spear and hopping on the nearest plane, the best thing you can do to help out is to drink more Tuscan wine.
Reports that marauding wild boar are devastating the vineyards of Chianti (and Tuscany in general) have been in the news lately. Bleak portraits of grunting pigs rooting up young vines and chomping on ripe Sangiovese grapes, winemakers gnashing their teeth and/or throwing up their hands in despair, and Fiats bashed in by bad pig encounters on lonely roads are the essence of the story. As Diana Lenzi of the Fattoria di Petroio estate in Chianti Classico put it to me, "We are being invaded by wildlife. The cinghiale [wild boar] come in, rip things up, and keep coming and coming and coming. This year we lost one-fifth of our crop to wild boar."
So what does one do? Some wineries have taken to erecting massive steel fences, others are working with ultrasonic sound systems to repel the beasts (others are undoubtedly investing in additional shotguns and boar spears). Lenzi adds, "Some genius even brought in wolves to get rid of them. So now we have packs of wolves, too."
As to what we here in the U.S. can do, that's fairly simple: Drink more Tuscan wine. Here's the reasoning: More Tuscan wine consumed means more money for Tuscan wineries, and thus more resources to spend on eradicating excess wild boar. Right?
The other reason to drink more Tuscan wine—Chianti or Brunello or Vino Nobile or any other from Tuscany's 42 DOCs and 11 DOCGs—is that Sangiovese, the classic grape of the region, is an excellent match for wild boar. As Lenzi, who is also a former restaurant chef, notes, "the one thing to recommend them is that they do taste very good."
Five Tuscan reds that would be perfect with, oh, some braised boar shanks, maybe?
2013 Fattoria dei Barbi Brusco dei Barbi ($15)
The most affordable wine from this renowned Brunello estate, this red has light herbal notes and gentle red berry fruit.
2009 Tenuta Fertuna Lodai ($25)
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese, deep ruby in hue, with mocha and ripe currant flavors, it's made in Tuscany's coastal Maremma region.
2013 Le Macchiole Bolgheri Rosso ($25)
Le Macchiole's extraordinary Paleo Rosso is one of the Bolgheri region's top wines; for substantially less cash, though, interested wine lovers can pick up a bottle of this floral, cherry-inflected red.
2012 Castello di Rampolla Chianti Classico ($32)
Made from biodynamically grown grapes, this lively Chianti Classico suggests ripe raspberries and dried herbs.
2010 Fattoria di Petroio Chianti Classico Riserva ($35)
Lenzi's top wine shows beautifully in the great 2010 vintage: elegant structure, notes of mocha, leather and black cherry, and a long, lingering finish.