Wine and cheese yin, yang of palette
There are a few things in that world that go so well together that neither one is complete without its counterpart.
For example, mankind and the canine species form a symbiotic circle by which both experience enhanced lives as a result of their relationship together.
In the culinary world, this kind of mutually beneficial relationship exists between wine and cheese.
In their best examples, both are produced via the same ideology of terroir, which refers to a group of vineyards or even vines from the same region that share the same type of soil and weather conditions to region wines a distinct personality.
In other words, terrior is the expression of land through the products that come from it and somehow, when the two are consumed in tandem, something very special happens to your taste buds.
Pairing wine and cheese is best done through rigorous testing and research.
It would certainly be the romantic to always pair wines with the cheeses of the region relying on the fact that the cheese is made close enough to the wine that the innate characteristic of the land speak through both mediums.
This is possible mostly when you are in a region blessed with both ingredients and there is certainly no substitute for such a perfect situation. Unfortunately most of us do not live in places like Burgundy and Piedmont where those kinds of pairings are a part of everyday life so we need to get creative and rely on our palates to create those perfect marriages.
There are a few ground rules that help focus your wine and cheese experimentation but remember that nothing is set in stone and there are always happy surprises that arise.
Typically, red wines go better with harder cheeses and white wines pair better with softer and creamier cheeses. In the case of very tannic red wines I like to drink them with aged hard cheeses such as 3-5 year Parmigiano Reggiano, aged Mahon, or even an older Asiago.
Just as milk in you tea can sooth the tannins, cheese with your tannic wines can allow some its character become more obvious. In the case of white wines, there is nothing greater than bright acids cutting though fatty triple cream cheeses.
A terroir driven pairing that has few equals is white Burgundy and Epoisses. Epoisses is a washed rind cheese from the Cote D’Or in Burgundy and is one of the most heavenly cheeses in the world.
There is of course then the world of goat and sheep cheese which comes in as many forms as you can imagine. They can be hard, soft, blue, bloomed, washed rind, or herbed. One thing you can usually expect however is that they have bright acids and therefore sometimes tangy aftertaste. For this I am particularly fond of wines that have a touch of sweetness such as a Vouvray or a certain Gewurztraminers.
One of the best strategies for cheese and wine pairing is to find a trustworthy cheese monger who knows his or her product inside and out and can make suggestions for great wines to pair with a particular cheese.
One such retailer in Utah is Tony Caputo’s Market in Salt Lake. Their well-trained and knowledgeable staff is always happy to offer suggestions.
The best way to do it is of course to trust your own palate and eat a lot of cheese and drink a lot of wine.
Zev Rovine is the former sommelier of Spotted Frog Bookstore.
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