A nice creamy risotto could call for two different styles of wine depending on how you decide to prepare it.
We’ve decided to prepare it two ways, allowing us to suggest two different wines that we’d serve with the dish if it were on our tables at home.
The richness of Ann Vogel’s Fresh Mushroom Risotto calls for a wine with equal richness. That’s why we’re recommending a Sémillon.
But before we get into why we would choose Sémillon, a little history. At one point it is believed that Sémillon was the most-planted grape in the world. That’s not the case anymore, and in fact some of France’s top Chateaus in Bordeaux recently joined together to create an association focused on growing quality clones because a decline in the grape’s popularity was resulting in fewer nurseries growing quality wine.
In Bordeaux it’s common to see Sémillon blended with Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle, in fact these are the three main grapes that make up traditional white Bordeaux blends.
The grape is also used to make some of the world’s best dessert wine, which is produced by leaving the grapes on the vine until noble rot takes over. The noble rot causes the grapes to shrivel, which dries up the moisture in the fruit and intensifies the acid and sugar levels.
In France, when Sémillon is the dominant grape being blended, it creates wine masterpieces like Château d’Yquem Sauternes.
We Washingtonians are lucky because we have wineries here that produce some stellar Sémillons, including one of Walla Walla’s oldest wineries L’Ecole No. 41.
L’Ecole actually produces two Sémillon wines, one from a series of well-known vineyards in the Columbia Valley appellation and its estate-grown Luminesce.
Both are blended with Sauvignon Blanc, but the Sémillon is 83 percent Sémillon, 17 percent Sauv Blanc, while the Luminesce is 67 percent Sémillon and 33 percent Sauv Blanc.
When the Sémillon grape dominates, the wine has a rounder mouthfeel with more floral, fruity notes.
If you decide to add some extras to the mushroom risotto — like asparagus and lemon — Sémillon is definitely the best match. L’Ecole’s Sémillon retails for around $14 and can be found at the grocery store and most wine shops.
If you prefer to make Vogel’s recipe with her suggested prawns and chili pepper additions, we have a different white wine for you.
Because of the sweetness of the shrimp, and the spiciness of the chili peppers, we suggest another wine that does exceptionally well in Washington: Riesling.
In fact, the wine does so well that last year the leading variety of wine planted in the state was Riesling, which accounted for 33,500 tons of grapes picked.
While some are hesitant to try Riesling because of a fear of sweet wines, we’re here to assure you, there’s nothing to be afraid of. We even recommend grabbing a sweeter Riesling over its dry cousins.
The sweetness of the wine balances the spiciness of the chilies — this is why Riesling is often recommended to accompany spicy Thai food.
And as we said before, the sweet notes in the wine will highlight the faint sweetness of the prawns.
Consider a Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling, also sourced from multiple vineyards in the Columbia Valley AVA, which retails for around $9.