In my early days of learning about wine, Pinot Noir intrigued me from the start.
There was its fickleness, its delicacy: thin-skinned Pinot is sublime in good years, but can be easily destroyed by early frosts, hail or other inclement conditions. For many winemakers, it's a heart-breaker. And it happens to make the kind of wine I like most of all: relatively light-bodied, glittering, vibrant with red fruit characteristics, silkily tannic.
Pinot Noir is often described as having cherry and floral notes, though it is perhaps most distinguished by its forest floor character. I love “forest floor because it sounds, at first, like absurd, wine-geek posturing. But if you take a beat or two, then forest floor becomes understandable; I'd wager most of us have a sense memory for it. It smells like autumn, like fallen leaves slowly turning into sweet rot, like earthy mushrooms in the damp.
Perhaps it's no coincidence, then, that Pinot is the perfect seasonal transition wine: it isn't quite a fireside sipper, but it’s autumnal down to its bones. Conveniently, it’s also a classic option during Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners – Pinot is a flexible pairing partner and loves a roast chicken or turkey as much as duck or goose.
This particular wine, which hails from Australia’s Adelaide Hills region, is less mushroomy than an aged Burgundy might be – the winery describes it as a “smashable” and straightforward Pinot. Red and black fruits are at the fore, with a good amount of juiciness; it does well lightly chilled. But underneath the fruit is that distinctive, earthbound quality that makes this grape so unforgettable.
Sure, you’d do well to serve it with your next roast, but Pinot also works in contexts beyond a meat course. Enter this hearty vegetarian pie, loosely inspired by a Diana Henry recipe. I like to think of it as all of autumn in one slice: you have pumpkin and nutmeg, mushrooms and chestnuts, sage and sherry vinegar. But for all of those deep, classically October flavours, there's still a lightness to this pie: filo dough, rather than shortcrust or even puff pastry, helps it feel light rather than stodgy, crispy and flaky rather than leaden.
In that way, it’s a fitting partner for Pinot: both are complex and earthy, but still with their own lovely lightness.
Pumpkin, Mushroom and Ricotta Pie
Loosely adapted from Diana Henry
For the roast pumpkin:
1 1-kilo delica pumpkin or red kuri squash
1 large yellow onion, roughly sliced
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
2–3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon paprika
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the pie:
700g mixed mushrooms (I used chestnut and shiitake)
100g unsalted butter, divided
Large handful fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped
Fine sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
200g peeled, cooked chestnuts, roughly chopped
30g grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Large handful tarragon, roughly chopped
220g filo dough, defrosted if frozen
- First, prep the pumpkin. Preheat the oven to 220° Celsius (425° Fahrenheit). With a very sharp knife, carefully top and tail the pumpkin, then peel. Halve, scooping out and discarding the pulp and seeds, before cutting into wedges. Trim the wedges so each piece is 2–3 inches long.
- Line a large baking sheet with foil and add the pumpkin, onion and garlic cloves. Drizzle over the olive oil and vinegar before adding the sugar, nutmeg and paprika, plus salt and pepper to taste. Toss with your hands until evenly coated; arrange the slices in a single layer. Bake for 20–25 minutes, until tender and just starting to darken. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
- Next, prep the mushroom and chestnut filling. Using a mushroom brush or piece of kitchen roll, gently brush any dirt and grime off the mushrooms (don’t wash them under water or they will become soggy). Remove and discard the stems and slice the caps. Place a large frying pan over high heat and add 25g of butter. Once melted, add half the mushroom slices and arrange into a single layer. Leave undisturbed for a few minutes until golden on the reverse before tossing and cooking through for 2–3 minutes more. Transfer to a bowl and season generously with salt and pepper.
- Repeat, melting 25g more butter and adding the rest of the mushrooms, as well as the chopped sage. Once cooked through and seasoned, return the previous batch of mushrooms to the frying pan, as well as the chopped chestnuts. Stir to mix, then remove from the heat and set aside.
- Prep the cheese filling. In a medium bowl, add the ricotta, eggs, feta, Parmigiano Reggiano and chopped tarragon leaves. Mix until uniform. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Make the pie. Turn the oven temperature down to 180° Celsius (350° Fahrenheit). Melt your remaining 50g of butter in the microwave and brush a light coating on the sides and base of a 9-inch springform cake pan. Take a sheet of filo dough and place it at 12 o'clock from the middle of the cake pan upwards; roughly 5 inches should overhang the edge. Brush with melted butter. Repeat with the remaining 11 sheets of dough, working clockwise so that the sheets overlap each other like the spokes of a wheel, each with a similar amount of overhang.
- Once all 12 sheets are buttered and in place, scatter two-thirds of the mushroom and chestnut mixture over the base, forming an even layer. Top with the ricotta and egg mixture, smoothing with a spoon until even, then place the baked pumpkins, onions and garlic over the ricotta with the remaining mushrooms and chestnuts, arranging into an even layer. Fold over the overhanging filo dough and scrunch slightly; the dough should cover most of the vegetables, barring a small circle in the middle. Brush the dough with butter and transfer to the oven.
- Bake for approximately 40-45 minutes, until the filo dough is evenly golden-brown and the pie is cooked through; you may need to cover with foil during baking if the exposed pumpkin slices darken too much. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes before slicing. Garnish with extra chopped tarragon and serve.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer and wine hound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen. Don’t miss out on Claire’s wine and food pairings, which go out every month in our Natural Wine Killers subscription box.