Rabbit is incredibly lean meat. In fact, there’s a phrase called ‘Rabbit Starvation‘ where people in the Arctic nearly died living off a diet of rabbit. If you want to know more, I’ll let you go down the ‘rabbit hole’ for that one.
As rabbit is lean, and the taste is mild (but a little sweet and gamey), red wines low in tannin like Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, Zinfandel, or a crisp Rosé pair best. If the rabbit is in a heavy stew or accompanied by a rich sauce, you could get away with a full-bodied red wine like a Syrah, a Sangiovese based Super Tuscan, or a Barolo, provided it is aged and the tannin has softened.
Pinot Noir & Rabbit Pairing
Pinot Noir is a light and fruity red wine known for its wild strawberry and cherry flavours. The refreshing acidity of Pinot Noir provides a pleasant backdrop for the lean and gamey flavours of rabbit. Pinot Noir is also known for its smoky and earthy aromas which remind people of a forest floor or barnyard. These notes add extra complexity to your meal an will complement any mushrooms flavours which may accompany your rabbit dish.
Beaujolais & Rabbit Pairing
Beaujolais is a light and fruity red wine made from the Gamay grape. You can expect bright flavours of tart cherry, raspberry and cranberry to liven up your Rabbit dish. The fruitier aspect will help cover up any gamey notes of the Rabbit that some people might find unpleasant.
I tend to prefer a medium-bodied Beaujolais-Villages, which maintains its fruit flavours but will have notes of forest floor, mushroom, smoke and violet. Not only will these flavours meld in perfectly with the tender rabbit flavours, but it also makes for a more interesting meal.
Zinfandel & Rabbit with a Fruit Sauce Pairing
Rabbit is a tiny bit gamey, and the meat has a touch of sweetness to it. If you were blind-folded because the meat is so lean, you might even think you were eating the darker meat of a chicken.
Zinfandel is a wine lacking tannin, and is also a touch sweet. Zinfandel is delicious with rabbit accompanied by a fruit sauce as the wine is bursting with ripe fruity flavours that will complement the sauce. Zinfandel also has a smokey edge, which enfolds the tender rabbit meat and adds a kiss of mystery and wonder to the dish.
Syrah & Rabbit Stew Pairing
Syrah will only work for rabbit that is in a hearty stew or prepared with a heavy sauce. Syrah and Shiraz are the same grape, with more popular Shiraz coming from Australia, where the wines are jammy and peppery. A French Syrah will have Shiraz’s notorious jammy notes dialled back and feature more acidity and earthy-herbaceous aromas of olives, smoke, licorice and cured meat.
Again, Syrah isn’t something you would want to pair with rabbit on its own. However, if the sauce is right, or if it’s in a hearty stew that has lots of flavour, Syrah is a fantastic wine to feature.
Rosso di Montepulciano DOC and Rabbit Tomato Stew Pairing
Rosso di Montepulciano is a Sangiovese-based red wine from Tuscany. High in acidity but balanced with tannin, you’ll find a red wine that has bright cherry flavours, along with rustic notes of dried herbs, tea and tobacco.
Rosso di Montepulciano is going to be full-bodied, so you’ll want to ensure your stew is hearty. As the wine is balanced with acidity, it won’t clash with the tomatoes, and the acidity in the wine will electrify the tender rabbit flavours.