I was at my local farmer’s market this past weekend and there was a mushroom vendor selling a variety of fungi, some of which looked like they came from another planet! I simply couldn’t resist buying some. I love that rich earthy, umami character of sautéed mushrooms, especially when cooked with garlic, onions and butter – yum!
There are over 2,000 edible species of mushroom in the world, so how the heck do we even start to figure out how to pair all of this variety with wine? Luckily, there are only a small handful of mushrooms that commonly make their way onto our plates, and we can fairly easily divide these into two categories.
- Delicately flavored mushrooms such as lobster, enoki, maitake, oyster, and button mushrooms. These are best paired with creamy white wines, such as Chardonnay, Viognier, and white Rhone blends. They can also work well with lighter reds, especially those that have an earthy character, such as Pinot Noir. For something a little different, you can even open a bottle of Champagne for its yeasty, earthy note and acidity that contrasts with the savoriness of the mushrooms.
- Hearty, earthy mushrooms such as truffles, shiitake, portobello, porcini and morels. These bolder and meatier mushrooms can definitely stand up to bigger red wines. Again, look for big reds that have an earthy character, such as Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Bordeaux and Syrah.
So, my local mushroom vendor at the farmer’s market inspired me to make a mushroom risotto for dinner. I tend to prefer a blend of various mushrooms in my risotto that combines both delicacy and boldness. As a result, I chose shiitake mushrooms, a maitake mushroom (commonly known as Hen-of-the-Woods) and dried porcini mushrooms. As a side note, dried mushrooms reconstituted in hot broth will add a very bold pop of umami flavor!
As for the wine pairing, I chose a 2005 Corino Vigna Giachini Barolo from Piedmonte, Italy that has been maturing quite nicely in my cellar for more than a decade. It could have remained in the cellar for a few more decades, but I knew it was going to be perfect with this dish, so Carpe Diem! I was not disappointed.
This wine had that telltale pale, brick red color of Barolo with pronounced aromas of earth, dried leaves, roses, sour cherry, smoke and leather. Its high acidity and high tannins not only allowed it to age so well, but provided brilliant structure to the fruit. The finish went on and on, both lingering and evolving on the palate. The wine’s earthiness perfectly complimented the savory mushrooms, while its high acidity cut through the creaminess of the risotto. Barolo and mushroom risotto is a match made in gastronomic heaven!