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When wine and cheese mix

ZEV ROVINE, Contributing Record writer

As I eluded to in last week’s column there is no worse use of fine resources like cheese and wine than pairing them poorly. There are, of course, ways to avoid such travesties, though it does take a certain amount of practice and thought to get it right. Here is how I do it:

The first form of pairing any food and wine is both the most romantic and the least practical. The pairing technique is based on the assumption that if a food and wine share the same "terroir" than they will taste great together. Terroir is the culmination of the dirt, the aspect, the climate, and all of the other of Earth’s effects on a particular wine. While I love this idealistic theory, it is extremely hard to adhere to unless you are in the place that makes the wine and the cheese. It is possible to find Burgundian cheese in Utah as well as Burgundian wine. The problem is that there are dozens of cheeses in Burgundy and hundreds of independent wine appellations and they are all unique and distinctive. Therefore unless you are drinking wine made on the farm that makes the cheese, a good pairing is a very difficult thing to achieve.

Instead, I recommend that you try to follow your palate and a few simple rules. First, in general, harder cheeses work better with red wines while softer cheeses work better with the whites. After that you just need to follow your nose. A cheese is a lot like wine in that it can be full of complexity and character. Smell your cheese. Does is have a fruity aroma? Does it have an herbal or grassy aroma? Is it earthy? Once you determine the style of your cheese try to find a wine with similar characteristics.

When serving your cheese try to keep a few things in mind. First do not put anything on the cheese plate that will detract from the depth of a great cheese. Nuts and dried fruit are great accoutrements that often enhance some of the cheese’s natural charm. I like to use a more mild bread with cheeses by that same logic to avoid conflicting with their unique styles.

The best way to get wine and cheese to really work together is to practice. Try different cheeses with different wines until you find your perfect marriage. But be careful: it becomes an addiction.

Zev Rovine is the sommelier and resident cheese monger at the Spotted Frog Bookstore Cafe and Wine Bar where he teaches weekly wine classes. His wine education comes from the American Sommelier Association in New York City. He tries his very best not to spill the Pinot on the bestseller section. If you have any wine queries or comments, he is easily contacted via e-mail at zev@spottedfrogbooks.com .


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