Game refers to the red meat from wild animals, including wild deer, wild boar, wild rabbits, and many types of wild birds, including pheasant. In tropical countries a much richer array of game is available including bush meat. In general, raw meat has an uninteresting aroma or ﬂavour and mankind has learned to ‘hang’ meat so that it can develop mouth-watering ﬂavours and aromas. If you are a biochemist, you would recognize the procedure of hanging meat in a controlled environment as a precise and controlled degradation of the natural polymers in the muscle tissue. The proteins break down into complex mixtures of smaller molecules called peptides and the fundamental amino-acids. The complex carbohydrate glycogen breaks down into simpler sugars. The fat in the meat, long recognised as a source of potent aromas, is degraded ﬁrst into the long-chain fatty acids and then further into the fragrant and heavy smelling lower fatty acids. This complex sequence of chemical reactions is still not fully understood. It is due in part to the enzymes in the muscle tissue and in part to enzymes produced by bacteria. Hanging is still as much art as science and a good butcher must become master of this key step in the production of game ﬁt for the table.
The aroma of game which is relevant to wine is the smell of the uncooked meat or the smell of the atmosphere in a temperature controlled room in which the game is hanging. It is not the mouth-watering and delicious aroma from cooking meat. Apart from the strictest vegans, few of us can resist the siren scent call of the fumes from roasting meats, especially at some distance down-wind. When meat is heated, the simple fats and sugars and peptides and amino-acids all react together in the most unholy and promiscuous multi-chemical reactions, producing a bewildering variety of highly fragrant molecules which do not occur in uncooked animal tissues. Many of these molecules fall into a family of molecules called the heterocyclics and these molecules are amongst the most powerful smells for the human nose. How and why we have evolved to take such ultimate delight in the smells of such molecules - the product of heating ﬂesh - is largely a mystery.
See our Wine Aroma Kit for more information.