Gathering field mushrooms has been such a joy for me that my family once baked me a birthday cake shaped like one. No surprise, then, that I seized the chance to go foraging for fungi in Hampshire’s New Forest – then lunch on the results.
Gathering field mushrooms has been such a joy for me that my family once baked me a birthday cake shaped like one. No surprise, then, that I seized the chance to go foraging for fungi in Hampshire’s New Forest – then lunch on the results. Given the obvious harmony between the taste of mushrooms and of Beaujolais and Burgundy, the clutch of Louis Jadot wines that would accompany the meal made the prospect irresistible.
Chief forager for the event was John Wright (of Channel 4’s River Cottage), with his encyclopaedic knowledge, understated style and dry humour. Our hunt produced more than 30 types of fungus but Wright was quick to condemn most as tasting highly unpleasant or as poisonous. Only a fool would ignore the warning implicit in names like beechwood sickener and funeral bell. Fortunately, the chefs at the Hotel Terravina had more suitable fungi in reserve to add complexity and richness to the dishes we would sample.
Our first course combined a fricassée of ceps with macaroni, and we tried it with both very young Beaujolais and lightly oaked chardonnay. As the juicy, aromatic and structured 2011 Louis Jadot Fleurie Château des Jacques is still a tad young for this task, the vote went to its stablemate, the smooth, balanced and slightly toasty 2009 Louis Jadot Clos de Loyse, Château des Jacques (£10.99, Luvians), with its touches of peach and lemon yet distinctive white Beaujolais characteristics.
The next course, a fillet of stone bass with a wild mushroom accompaniment we had seen created by Scotsman Alan Murchison, the event’s executive chef. Here the red and white wines ran one another close. The vibrancy and lemon-centred spiciness of 2010 Louis Jadot Marsannay Blanc (£15.99, Majestic) won the day with the fish. However, with the mushrooms alone, the sheer diversity of flavours – light red fruits with touches of orange, spice and a gamey influence – of 2008 Louis Jadot Beaune Premier Cru 2008 (£18.99, Luvians) was even more impressive.
The main course, guinea fowl with wild mushroom velouté, qualified for two reds and a white. The 2006 Louis Jadot Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru is well on its way to being a brilliant, aristocratic Burgundy with complex and powerful ripe plum flavours. But to match such a delicate meat, it probably needs a few more miles on the clock.
This need was easily met by the 1999 Louis Jadot Corton Pouget Grand Cru (£57, Noel Young Wines), with its juicy, cherry-centred fruit and tannins that have softened nicely so that everything complemented the food nicely.
To cut through the sauce, there was a compelling case for the white 2010 Louis Jadot Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru (£29.99, Waitrose), with its melon fruit and the sophisticated, herby, butteriness and minerality of top-level white Burgundy.
The final course confirmed how well white wine can go with cheese. For the Rosary goats’ cheese, the hard, more mature but creamy Winchester and Isle of Wight soft, the best match was 2010 Pouilly Fuisse Domaine Ferret Autour de Fuisse (£27.99, Wimbledon Wine Cellars), with its rich, creamy and nutty flavours accentuated by hints of fennel.
Isle of Wight blue, however, paired better with 2005 Louis Jadot Moulin a Vent Château des Jacques Carquelin (£20, The Wine Society). Its harmonious and fleshy cherry flavours illustrate just how good Cru Beaujolais wines can be with a little age.
In conclusion, the earthiness of fungi, Burgundy and Beaujolais fit well together. But be cautious with very young reds as their powerful fruit can dominate. And never underestimate the versatility of good whites – here they matched cheeses, cut through a sauce and held their own with a light meat.
2011 Folle Blanche du Pays Nantais, Pierre Luneau-Papin Loire, France, 11 per cent
If you thought the gros plant grape was just downmarket muscadet, think again. This soft and fresh white has lovely ripe melon flavours, given sharpness by underlying touches of lime and green apple – beautifully balanced. £7.50, Les Caves de Pyrene (www.lescaves.co.uk)
2010 Finest Château Le Barrail Medoc, France, 13.5 per cent
The ‘everyday Bordeaux’ campaign seeks to dispel the region’s elitist reputation, and this warm, unpretentious version hits the spot perfectly – cabernet gives minty blackcurrant touches while merlot brings soft and smooth cherry influences. The tannin kicks in at the end but never dominates. £7.99, Tesco