Cheers to the fungus among us
November 14th, 2011
03:00 PM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

For me, the onset of real fall weather seems to have a bizarre neurochemical effect on my brain, which is that I start thinking, nearly constantly, about what I can cook that involves mushrooms. Mushroom risotto, roasted hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, shaved mushroom salads, wild mushroom ragù, mushroom pizza, mushroom ice cream - OK, enough of that.

Assuming you’re wired anything like I am, this also means that it’s time to break out those autumnal wines that go so well with anything fungoid. For me, that’s Pinot Noir from pretty much anywhere, Chianti and Barbera from Italy, and Rioja (especially when it’s had a few years to age).

To that end, here are some great mushroom-pairing wines:

2010 Toscolo Chianti (approximately $10)
A hard-to-beat bargain for Chianti, this juicy, cherry-inflected red is made by one of Italy’s top consulting winemakers, Franco Bernabei.

2008 Blue Pirate Pinot Noir (approximately $15)
This Oregon Pinot is produced in a former hazelnut factory, and its name refers to the blue jays who used to swoop in and steal hazelnuts. Fair enough. The wine itself is light and crisp, with bright raspberry fruit - not complex, but very tasty.

2009 Vietti Barbera d’Asti Tre Vigne and 2009 Vietti Barbera d’Alba Tre Vigne ($19 for the Asti, $24 or so for the Alba)
Both of these are standout Barbera wines, a grape with appealing plum-cherry juiciness, low tannins, and zesty acidity; a great wine for food in general, and super with anything shroom-ish.

Regarding the difference between the two, I’ll just quote what Luca Currado from Vietti told me: “Bottom line for me, Alba is more elegant, more floral, more delicate; Asti is more rich, more masculine, even a bit more rustic sometimes. I like to tell people, Barbera from Alba is the Grace Kelly of Barbera; Barbera from Asti is the Angelina Jolie.” No way to improve on that.

2004 Bodegas Muga Seleccion Especial (approximately $40)
It’s a splurge, admittedly, but this full-bodied, boysenberry-plummy, earthy red is exactly what superb Rioja is all about. It's powerful but approachable, and impeccably balanced. You could very happily drink it right now with roasted mushrooms and grilled lamb chops, or cellar it for pretty much as long as you like (it should age well for at least 20 years). Muga is generally considered one of Rioja’s top producers, and for good reason.

More from Food & Wine:

Awesome Mushroom Recipes

Thanksgiving Appetizers

Best Fried Chicken in the U.S.

Best Pizza in the U.S.

Best Burgers in the U.S.

© 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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Filed under: Content Partner • Food and Wine • Sip • Wine

soundoff (One Response)
  1. Jamie

    Wine is great with mushrooms and red meat! I had a beautiful grilled steak last night (see pic – and I drank a beautiful chianti with it. I think that wine enhances the flavor of the meat.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
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