It wasn’t many years ago that cooking with mushrooms meant buying white buttons or crimini, at the supermarket—the kind that Julia Child used to whip up duxelles, a classic French preparation.
In the ’90s, we met the button’s more exotic sibling, the portobello. And, in the last decade, we saw a deluge of specialty mushrooms like shiitakes, oysters, maitakes, enokis and pom poms, which in 2014-’15 represented 95 million pounds in sales.
More recently, with foraging’s popularity, restaurants began featuring morels, chanterelles and porcini found only in fields and forests.
With such “mushrooming” consumption, what wines should we drink with them?
Chefs and sommeliers say it depends on the mushroom’s taste and texture.
“I compare them with cheeses,” says Aimee Olexy, owner/sommelier of Talula’s Table in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. “Some, like crimini, are buttery with almond-like flavors, while others, like porcini, are funky—even stinky.”
Olexy’s preferred wines for buttery varieties are Northern Italian fragrant whites like Soave. For earthier mushrooms, she likes the bright balance of American Syrahs or Italian Barberas.
Christopher Czarnecki’s family has specialized in mushroom entrées in their restaurants for three generations, first in Pennsylvania, and now at Joel Palmer House in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Czarnecki likes to pair the earthy and fruity tastes of Oregon Pinot Noirs with local mushrooms, whether fresh, dried or even frozen.
With “mushrooming” consumption of mushrooms, what wines should we drink with them?
A fish dish with chanterelles demands a lighter Pinot, he says, while a beefy porcini or portobello call for an Oregon Syrah.
Mushrooms are a particular focus at the vegan Ravens restaurant at The Stanford Inn by the Sea in Mendocino, a California coastal town flanked by mushroom-laden forests. Sommelier Brendan McGuigan recommends a hardier Pinot Gris or an Austrian Blauburgunder with morels. For most porcini and portobello dishes, he likes Syrah or Sangiovese.
With black trumpet or chanterelle, McGuigan prefers “a Burgundy-style” Pinot Noir or a Nebbiolo. He says he likes shiitakes for the spiciness that lend themselves to pairing with the crisp bubbles and light fruit of a blanc de noirs brut.
Alex Haun, chef at Savour in the Garden in St Andrews, New Brunswick, likes to forage for mushrooms so much that he’s taken a burner and a pan into the woods to fix a breakfast of fresh chanterelles and cream.
“I treat mushrooms like different proteins,” he says, and he matches his wines accordingly. “Rieslings go very well with chanterelles, while I like Pinot Noirs and Syrahs with heartier porcini and other boletes.”
Chef Alan Bergo of Lucia’s in Minneapolis is so passionate about hunting on the wild side—especially mushrooms—he created the web site, foragerchef.com, where he describes 27 types of fungi to forage.
For would-be hunter and gatherers, foragingguide.com suggests starting with these 10 easy mushrooms:
✦ Penny bun boletus / cep
✦ Parasol mushroom
✦ Bay bolete
✦ Wood urchin / hedgehog
✦ Shaggy ink cap
✦ Fairy ring champignon
✦ Field mushroom
✦ Giant puffball
✦ St. George’s mushroom