Monday, November 9, 2009

The Ongoing Mushroom and Wine Pairing Experiment



It's mushroom season in Puglia, and I feel like I'm in somekinda medieval fairy tale about witches because of all the colorful and daunting fungi I see. Serious: very Grimm-brothers. I walk down the street and come across large tables covered with mushrooms of all shapes and sizes that the locals have foraged and are selling at 7-8 euro a kilo (around 10 dollars for 2.3lbs). It is a taste of the ancient traditions in this part of the world. Since many of the local mushrooms are poisonous, those who pick them must be trained (I assume) by their parents to know which are edible. And lucky me, I get to go mushroom crazy.



After polishing off a few homemade arancini (deep-fried risotto balls that I made with wild mushrooms) for lunch, I thought about the difficulties of pairing mushrooms with wine. Since there are hundreds of mushrooms, there are hundreds of flavors to match, but there is another difficulty: When cooked, mushrooms release umami, which are known to reduce wine aromas and heighten wine textures, such as acidity, tannins, and bitterness. It strikes me as strange that one of my favorite foods, one which I pair with wine regularly, is one of the top ten most difficult foods to pair wine with. Further, I want to test the ability to prepare mushrooms with wine-based sauces.

So, during these next few weeks I will experiment with different mushrooms, recipes, and wines, including novello wines (similar to Beaujolais), Sangiovese, Barbera, Primitivo/Zinfandel, and possibly a Barolo. I might consider a Pinot Noir or two since so many people rave about their ability to compliment mushrooms, but I will mostly stick to Italian wines. If you want to share any of your own mushroom and wine pairing experiences, please feel free. Salute!

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