Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Mushrooms and M de Malle

Nick picked our first mushrooms this morning whilst walking the dogs and sautéed them in butter for breakfast. They were lovely! Mushrooms are one of the most difficult foods to match with wine. I don’t mean cooking them in it – I mean pairing a mushroom dish with a wine to accompany it.

It is not as if there is just one mushroom to choose from, although our British grown Field Mushrooms that you spot nestling in the grass like an unexpected dollop of snow are my favourite. The many varieties of wild fungi and tame shop bought ones have lots of different flavours to confuse us wine enthusiasts.

France was the leader in the formal cultivation of mushrooms. Some accounts say that Louis XIV was the first mushroom grower. Around this time mushrooms were grown in special caves near Paris set aside for this unique form of agriculture. Originally, cultivation was unreliable as mushroom growers would watch for good flushes of mushrooms in fields and then dig up the mycelium, replanting in beds of composted manure or inoculating 'bricks' of compressed litter, loam and manure.

The general rule when it comes to matching a wine with your mushroom is based on how they are cooked i.e. what the sauces and spices are. French cuisine advocates that “less is more” so in other words keep it simple and you will be able to taste the flavour of the mushrooms.

You can't get much simpler than a pan of freshly picked sautéed mushrooms and Nick recommends a dry white Graves - M de Malle. This wine has quite a woody, buttery flavour which is similar to a white Burgundy from Meursault or Montrachet and would be great with your mushrooms.

M de Malle is a medium bodied white and is the dry white wine of the Sauternes Second Growth Château de Malle, owned by the Comtes de Bournazel. Château de Malle was built at the beginning of the 17th century and has remained in the same family without ever changing hands. De Malle is one of the oldest estates in Sauternes - early records suggest that the grapes were grown there are already in the 1400's, and that the wine at this time was dry and white rather than the sweet style that Sauternes later evolved into.

M de Malle is difficult to find because only 7,000 bottles are produced and we are lucky to have the 2005 vintage at Bordeaux-Undiscovered. This really is a beautiful wine: bold, brilliant green tinted gold with waxy hints of white blossoms, passion fruit, quince, spice and a good burst of lemon acidity.

Oddly enough Bordeaux has a link to cultivating mushrooms. Saint Emilion is riddled with 173 acres of catacombs that run underground. They are carved out of the soft, pale ochre limestone that was used to build Saint Emilion. Chateau Ausone sits upon 3 troglodytic caves, the smallest of which is used as an ancient wine cellar which ages the wines in a perfectly stable atmosphere. Legend has it that a Parisian mushroom grower, fleeing from the capital during the dramatic events of the Commune in 1871, set up production there. The darkness, constant temperature, aeration and high humidity of the quarries provided optimum growing conditions for mushrooms. How strange that a century later they should also be the optimum conditions for ageing wine!

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