How Mushrooms Can Help Improve The Flavor Of Old Red Wine

The saying "wine only improves with age" is a cliché that has often proved to be untrue. While all wine benefits from a certain amount of aging, there comes a point when the bottle is, in fact, too old. The vast majority of wine is intended to be consumed within five years of its bottling and nowhere does a wine's excessive age show more than with red wine. The bold colors will have lost their vivacity, and the once vibrant flavors will have gone dull. Fortunately, if you find yourself in this situation, there is a way to improve it: mushrooms.

Believe it or not, mushroom dishes can actually improve the quality of your old red wine to the point where it can become pleasant and palatable. Mushrooms are packed with the kind of earthy, savory, umami flavors that serve to elevate the tired flavors of the wine. This is providing, of course, that you are pairing the right wine with the right mushroom.

What mushroom varieties pair with reds

Just as it matters what kind of meat you pair with what wine, the variety of mushrooms you choose can have an impact on the wine's flavor. Keep in mind that the more, well, mushroomy the mushroom, the better. The bold flavors are enough to counteract the dwindling ones in the red wine. Meanwhile, milder-flavored mushrooms are best served with spritely, white wines.

The rich meatiness of a portobello mushroom packed into classic risotto pairs brilliantly with a fruity Syrah or tangy Malbec. The more earthy and woodsy tones of shiitake and morel mushrooms sautéed in butter and served over pasta play well with the density and boldness of a Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Burgundy. Even standard white button mushrooms served in a warming soup or a hearty rustic galette, can elevate the flavors of a tired Barolo, Chianti, or Zinfandel. 

The thing to remember is that the mushrooms need to be front and center. Don't add them to anything where their flavor might disappear.