If you think of the ingredients that show off a great wine mushrooms would have to be near the top of the list.
Possessed of the sexy ingredient umami – the intensely savoury taste identified by the Japanese, they flatter and act as the perfect foil for wines as disparate as vintage Champagne, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Beers too can work well, particularly dark lagers and brown ales, less fashionable styles but ones which have a real affinity with earthy mushroom flavours.
Like any other ingredient it depends how you prepare and cook mushrooms, of course and what other ingredients there are in the dish. Delicate wild mushrooms in a creamy sauce are a different proposition from big flat Portabello mushrooms baked with garlic and parsley. Here are some suggestions:
- Mushrooms in a creamy sauce – possibly the ultimate preparation so far as wine is concerned whether it’s the base of a tart, a pasta sauce or simply on toast. You can mirror the creamy texture with a like-meets-like pairing of a fine white burgundy or other oak-aged Chardonnay, lift the dish while echoing its umami flavours with vintage Champagne or pick up on the mushrooms’ earthiness with a red burgundy or other Pinot Noir. For a not-so-special occasion a simple unoaked Chardonnay will do the trick.
- Mushroom risotto – Smooth dry Italian whites such as Soave and Gavi work well. If the mushroom content is predominantly porcini try an aged Italian red such as Barolo or vintage rosé Champagne.
- Duxelles – an unfashionable but wonderful way of cooking mushrooms (chopping them very finely then sauteing them in butter with onion until the mixture is completely dry). A perfect match for a great Pinot Noir.
- Mushrooms in tomato sauce – a combination most likely to be found in Italian dishes especially pasta sauces. Sangiovese and Sangiovese blends (e.g. Chianti Classico) tend to be the best match but a Belgian dubbel beer or Viennese-style lager can work well.
- Baked or stuffed Portabello mushrooms – have the meaty quality of a steak so can be paired with almost any robust red such as Zinfandel, Syrah/Shiraz or, if the dish contains cheese, Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Steak and mushroom (or simply mushroom) pie – Depends on the base of the sauce. If it’s wine-based, a full-bodied red, as above (a good Côtes du Rhône Villages or Languedoc red like a Faugères would also work). If the sauce is more like a gravy or has a dark mushroom flavour try a full-flavoured ale such as a dark Belgian Trappist beer, a northern French bière de garde, a brown ale or a strong English ale.
- Mushroom soup – Depends how creamy it is. If it’s quite light I’d go for a Chardonnay (see mushrooms in creamy sauce above) If it’s more intensely mushroomy or includes mustard (there’s a good recipe in my book An Appetite for Ale!) I’d choose a dark beer like Westmalle Dubbel or even a stout or porter.
- Mushroom quiche – Again how mushroomy is the dish? If the predominant flavour is cream, eggs and cheese I’d probably pick a white burgundy or Pinot Blanc. If the mushroom flavour is more powerful I’d revert to Pinot Noir.
- Mushrooms à la grècque or preserved in oil – a classic Italian-style antipasto that will work with almost any crisp, dry Italian or Italian-style white or a dry rosé. You could drink a pilsner or Kolsch with it successfully too.
- Oyster/shiitake mushrooms with soy – Unlikely to be served on its own unless it’s part of a vegetable stir-fry so you’re probably going to be looking for a wine that will perform well with a selection of Chinese or Chinese-style dishes. Ripe fruity reds such as new world Pinot Noir, Merlot or even young Rioja can work surprisingly well. For a lighter dish or selection of dishes try a dry (and I mean dry) Riesling from Alsace or Austria.