Wine & Shrooms & Cheese

What do you do when you find wanky shrooms? You buy wanky shrooms, stoopid. And you buy a bloody nice wine to go with them. Also: cheese.

Well — the other weekend, I opened a bottle of Ferraton Lieu Dit Saint-Joseph 2011 (£24 from The Wine Society) and it was bloody excellent. Beyond that, I’m not going to write much more about it. Why?

  1. It came after a brace of negronis (with Sacred Rosehip Cup, natch)
  2. It also came after a bottle of Alsace white
  3. Our splendid friends were having dinner with us, so why the hell would I have been making notes on the wine?

So I can’t tell you with any degree of objectivity or accuracy what it tasted of. But I can tell you how it tasted, which was, like I said, bloody excellent. Fruit, but serious fruit, not jammy nonsense, backed up by heft and spice and the rest.

We had it with mushrooms on toast. Not normal mushrooms on toast (though those are also a majestic thing). No, these were wanky mushrooms on toast. Specifically, girolles (I spotted these in a chichi deli near where I work and cleaned ‘em right out). Wanky shrooms are bloody hard to find if you don’t live in a metropolis replete with upmarket delis. When you do find them, you obey certain iron laws. Since I’m in the mood for ordered lists, let’s crack out another, shall we:

What to do when you find wanky shrooms

  1. Buy them, you idiot
  2. Cradle the resulting shroom-filled brown paper bag in your arms like a stinky, shroomy baby. Occasionally steal surreptitious sniffs as you carry them home, heedless of the disapproving glances of passers-by
  3. When you cook them, don’t fuck about with your poncy cheffy nonsense. They are the star of this show, not you.
  4. You are never the star of this show. When will you learn?
  5. Don’t fucking soak them. If they are absolutely filthy and too difficult to wipe off with a damp cloth, run them extremely quickly under cold water. But don’t let those greedy shrooms gulp up any more water than you can help, because it spoils their splendid texture and makes them squelchy.
  6. Butter is your friend. Garlic is your friend (not too much, please). Parsley is your friend. Thyme is your friend. Lemon is your friend. Salt and pepper are your friends.
  7. My, my. How many friends you suddenly have. Remember point 4, above, before you start congratulating yourself.
  8. Cook the shrooms just enough and absolutely no more. Don’t you dare make a sludgy mess of them, you animal.
  9. It goes without saying that you want wanky bread for your wanky shrooms. Sourdough is ideal.
  10. Mushrooms on toast can be the food of kings. So it’s certainly good enough for you.

I hope this helps.

So. We boshed our way through girolles on toast. All the while gulping away at bloody excellent wine. Then we had cheese.

Cheese was from aforementioned deli also. It was all great, but I want to talk about just one cheese — which happens to be another thing I will pretty much always buy whenever I see it. Waterloo cheese. Christ, it’s outstanding: ridiculously creamy, fabulous stuff. That, I guess, may be down to its provenance: a fine herd of Guernsey cows, who are notoriously creamy buggers. And look how yellow it is.

Waterloo cheese closeup

Come on, if you’re don’t have a string of drool hanging from your lip by now, I don’t want you reading this blog any more.

So, it seems that Waterloo is made in Berkshire by a couple called Anne and Andy Wigmore (yeah, they also make Wigmore cheese, which is superb too), trading as Village Maid Cheese. They’ve won a bevy of golds in the WORLD CHEESE AWARDS, which is admittedly a lesser accolade than being raved about by Old Parn, but impressive nonetheless.

So. In summary, one final ordered list to play us out: consider it homework, if you wish.

  1. Buy Ferraton Lieu Dit Saint-Joseph
  2. Buy good shrooms
  3. Buy Waterloo (the cheese, not — god forbid — the station)

Well? What are you waiting for?

Parallele 45 Reserve Cotes du Rhone Villages 2007, Paul Jaboulet Aine

…you can drink alone like the miserable yet discerning alkie you are

One of the reasons I love the Wine Society is its good selection of half-bottles. I often drink wine on my own, y’see (I just wanted an excuse to tell you that, really, as I’m fairly sure it makes me sound sort of cool) — and a half-bottle has that much less (round about half less, in fact) precious liquid to oxidise.

But if you take your lonesome arse into a supermarket and look for half-bottles, all you’ll find is a lamentable selection of mass-produced syrup- and vanilla-fests.

The Wine Society is virtually alone in the quality of its semi-sized selection.

And this — Paul Jaboulet Aine’s Parallele 45 Reserve Cotes du Rhone Villages — is one of the best of ’em.

So, it’s another Frenchy French wine. Full, strong, and (like our friend Domaine Font de Michelle) unapologetically gallic. Its aroma is hoofing enough to make you cough a little, should you avail yourself of a particularly generous snoutful.

Or maybe that’s just an early symptom of consumption.

Dans le gob, il y a beaucoup d’oomph. It’s simultaneously charmingly smooth and a gritty old bastard. It’d be great at film noir.

Loads of depth. Coffee-bitterness. Vegetation. A little oak to smooth it off. And wafting over the top of that are swoons of blossomy violet. Then, long afterwards, just as you think it’s all died down, a distant echo of tinned peaches and cream.

Verdict

Even if it weren’t for the boon of its half-bottle enclosure, this would be a winner. With, it, it pretty much has the rostrum to itself. I should probably add that you can also buy full-sized bottles. But that’d only mean sharing. Pah!

Here’s my advice: if you want to be cool, stick to the half-bottles. Alone.

Rating ★★★★☆
ABV 14%
Price £5.75 (half-bottle) from The Wine Society (Agh! Bastarding hell! It’s no longer available!); £8.95 (full bottle of the 2008) from Wine Direct

The Wine Society’s Exhibition Cairanne, Cotes du Rhone, 2007

… reminds me, alas, of my one-time DT teacher — but is nevertheless actually rather nice

You know how it is when, try as you might, you’re unable to find much to say about something? Not because you don’t like it and are trying to be polite; just because, well, it’s just it.

Thing is, there are some times you need to find something to say. If you’re writing a wine blog, for instance.

Or if you’re a teacher at parents’ evening, faced by expectant parents.

Indulge me, then, as I cast my mind back to Mr Kingston, my teacher for Design Technology — a man who, at parents’ evening, saw fit to inform my mother and father that I was ‘a nice enough lad’. Whilst I’m sure they were relieved at this insight, I suspect they also felt somewhat shortchanged with regard to critical analysis of my DT skills.

(Which were, incidentally, lamentable.)

So, via Mr Kingston then, allow me to meander my way to The Wine Society’s Exhibition Cairanne 2007. It is, without doubt, a Nice Enough Wine. But I know you, dear reader, expect more of me than this. So I’ll try a little harder.

Well, for starters, it is (like me) actually a good bit nicer than ‘nice enough’. It’s certainly a lot nicer, for instance, than Mr Kingston. I mean, I actively like it. Believe me.

It’s deep and long — again in contrast to Mr Kingston — but, like him, it possesses a degree of acidity alongside a good amount of stoutness and body. Both Mr Kingston and The Wine Society’s Exhibition Cairanne are not delicate creatures — and yet, in spite of it all, both turn out to be a little softer, a little smoother (steady on) than you’d expected.

(It turned out that Mr Kingston ran a tabletop wargaming club for eager small boys.)

Verdict

I feel slightly odd in recommending a wine I struggle to find much to say about. But I drink ’em; I blog ’em. And this is a nice wine. It’s good with food, weighty, full and balanced. I like it. I just don’t have much more to say.

But at least I tried, eh Mr Kingston?

Rating ★★★☆☆
ABV 14%
Price £8.95 from The Wine Society

Côtes-du-Rhône, Domaine Jaume, 2007

…doesn’t pretend to be TS Eliot

Aromatically, Domaine Jaume’s Côtes-du-Rhône isn’t especially forthcoming. There’s a bit of polish, a bit of woodiness. But I’ll admit that, on the evidence of first whiff, my expectations weren’t all that high.

But what a nice gobful it turns out to be. Big, full, confident. Swish it round and round your mouth for several seconds like a godawful prat if you like: it won’t turn to paint-stripper on your palate (unlike many big, roughish reds at this kind of price); it’ll certainly set the front of your mouth tingling like a recovering dead limb. But that’s invigorating, isn’t it?

Yeah, so it’s not a dignified, subtle wine; it’s a hoofer. But a very nice, balanced and (above all) reasonably priced hoofer. I drank it with homemade cottage pie, which was about right, I’d say.

There’s a bit of tannin there, but not lots. Understated but firm. Like a good teacher, who barely has to raise his voice in order to maintain classroom discipline. Or some such tortured metaphor. It keeps the wine focused and structured, prevents slackness at the fringes.

What else? Sweet cherries, varnished wood, liquorice, a not unpleasant hint of vegetation. Accents of black pepper and perhaps even cinnamon. And a very satisfying nuttiness to finish.

Verdict

This isn’t the most complex or subtle wine. But you don’t always want complexity and subtlety, do you? Otherwise you’d be reading bloody TS Eliot instead of this old bollocks, right?

Yeah. Sometimes you want a good, honest gobfiller. That’s this.

And if someone gave me a glass of Domaine Jaume, I’d almost certainly guess it was three or four quid more expensive than it is. Which has got to count for something, right? Especially for a ‘well known’ French region like Côtes-du-Rhône, which is often horribly overpriced and mediocre, relying on name alone.

So, a fine value hoofer, then. Stock up.

Rating ★★★☆☆
ABV 13.5%
Price £7.25 from The Wine Society

Domaine Font de Michelle 2004, Châteauneuf-du-Pape

…thrusts an unapologetic gallicism in your direction

The label of a bottle of Chateauneuf du PapeThis wine is French. It’s very French.

That’s a good thing, by the way.

I couldn’t tell you exactly what I mean by that, except that everything about its smell and taste thrusts an unapologetic Gallicism in your direction.

Much like General de Gaulle did, I’d imagine.

Its relatively rare — and very welcome — for a wine both to evoke an overflowing of fruit (here, ripe, fat cherries and crushed raspberries particularly, as well as dark, rich prune) and to maintain an almost austere, savoury complexity, bound in by a fruit-kernel-bitter structure.

Verdict

This is a massive wine, a fireball blooming in the mouth. Suck and chew on it for several seconds and you’ll see what I mean. Its intensity and depth is port- or brandy-like. But despite its massiveness, it doesn’t overreach. It keeps its structure and integrity right through its development: no telling belch of alcohol or flab of fruity decay.

I’m not sure if you can still readily buy the 2004 Domaine Font de Michelle: I got it a while ago from the Wine Society, but it’s no longer available there. Other vintages, though, seem to be available at Waitrose and Lay & Wheeler. On the strength of this one, I’d recommend trying others.

Rating ★★★★
ABV 14.5%
Price £20.99 from the Wine Society (no longer available)