Sunday, January 28, 2007

Wine and Food Matching: Cheese

Another great tasting to give this weekend: Matching wine and cheese. A classic, but a difficult classic as they can actually be quite challenging to match! I picked five wines from different categories and five very different cheeses. The wines were as follows:

1. DO Cava - Bodega Raventos i Blanc - Elisabet Raventos - Reserva - Brut - 2000 - 60% Xarel.lo, 30% Chardonnay, 10% Monastrell - 4 years aging on lees, 6,5g/l residual sugar - 12% - 18 euros

One of my favorite cavas! Very champagne like: elegant toasty fruit and very subtle, fine bubbles. Has some chardonnay which is very trendy in many cavas right now, but also has some Monastrell (Mourvedre), which is very unusual.
This cave is very wine-like, very versatile to match and great value.

2. DO Cava - Bodegas Cordoniú - Cava Rosado Brut - NV - 100% Pinot Noir - 24 months of aging on lees, 6-8g/l residual sugar - 12% - 10 euros

Rosé cava is so versatile with food! This a simple, but very bright cava, with nice strawberry fruit and some little toasty lees notes. For drinking I much prefer the complexity and elegance of the Raventos, but for the cheese matching I have to give it by a league to the Cordoniu! It matched so well with so many of the cheeses.

3. DO Rueda - Bodegas Aura - Aura - 2005 - 100% Verdejo - no oak - 13.5% - 5 euros

This is a great example of what Rueda has to offer: Lemon and gooseberry fruit with great acidity and a refreshingly slight bitterness on the long finish. All that for 5€! I really think Verdejo is a fantastic grape, whether in this un-oaked version or in some of the fantastic oaked version that are becoming all the rage. A high quality, low-priced Rueda is available in every bar in Spain: I love that! This wine was the easiest of the match of the five wines: it went really well with four of the five cheeses.

4. DO Bierzo - Bedegas Dominio de Tares - Cepas Viejas - 2004 - 100% Mencía (a wonderful local grape) - 9 months in French and American oak - 13.5% - 10 euros

This is one of my favorite Spanish wines at this price range…we put the 2003 version in our wedding! The 2004 is even better than the 2003, but last night I was a little disappointed. It seemed overly oaky when matched up with the cheeses….hopefully it was just a phase. Didn't realy match well with any cheeses, other than the goats cheese! Mencía is a fantastic grape and some great wines are coming out of Bierzo.

5. DO Malaga Transañejo - Bodegas Lopez Hermanos - Don Juan Pedro Ximenez - NV - 100% Pedro Ximenez - at least 30 years aging in barrel, 300g/l residual sugar - 17% - 18 euros (375 ml)

I appreciate intellectually the great Pedro Ximenez (PX) wines of Spain, but I actually don't like them that much. They are often too syrupy and cloying for me. Give me a dry 30 year old Oloroso instead any day! But this PX from Malaga is very nice, with a bracing streak of acidity to balance what is still a whoppingly sweet wine. Very nice coffee, fig, and raisin nose. Obviously was fantastic with our blue cheese, but wasn't too bad with some of the other stronger cheeses. In fact, here in Spain, I've discovered that Amontillado sherry matches extremely well with aged Manchego cheese.

For the cheeses I picked a varied international selection…most of the customers were Spanish, and I wanted them to try some new cheeses for them. Spain has wonderful cheeses, around 100, but cheese is not part of the culture here as it is in France. Cheese (almost always Manchego or a similar cheese) is served as an appetizer, usually over-shadowed by the fantastic cured ham products. Some high end restaurants are offering artesanal cheese plates, but most Spanish people are not even familiar with the rich variety of artesanal Spanish cheese, let alone international ones.

1. France: Coulommiers - Ile de France (Paris) - no AOC - raw cows milk - 4-6 week curing period

Nice substitute for Brie de Meaux, which was not available. Virtually identical to Brie, with a wonderful creamy, mushroomy texture and flavor. Customers really appreciated it, though some found it too strong...preferering the snatized supermarket Brie. Matched really well with the rosé Cava and the white Verdejo.

2. France: St Maure - Touraine (Loire Valley) - AOC cheese - raw goats milk with ash rind - 2-8 week curing period

Blew everyone's socks off…it was the majority's favorite cheese of the night! Spanish goat cheese is best in Catalonia, but it can't compete with the Loire goat cheeses. Sharp, acidic goats milk contrasted perfectly with the ultra-creamy texture. It also was the most easily matched cheese, matching weel with almost all the wines.

3. Spain: Idiazabal - Basque Country - DO cheese - raw, smoked sheeps milk - minumum 3 months aging

I wanted to put a smoked cheese and Idiazabal is one of the best. A nice smoke, not excessive, balances with the buttery, nutty flavors of the cheese. Very difficult to match…the best match was the white Verdejo, but it wasn't ideal.

4. Switzerland: Sbrinz - various cantons in central Switzerland - AOC cheese - raw cows milk - minimum aging 16 months, but usually 24 to 30 months

A lovely mellow nutty cheese, that resembles Parmesan, but is less strong in flavor. Quite challenging to match, the rosé cava is the only one that did it for me.
5. Spain: Valdeon - Castilla y Leon (Picos de Europa) - raw mixed milk (cow and gota) - minimum aging of 3 months in caves

I love this blue cheese, an artesanal, very small production blue cheese from northern Spain. It so mellow and complex, earthy, creamy, with only slightly sharp blue notes. It is the perfect blue to convert people to blue, yet also complex enough for cheese lovers. Ideal with the PX wine, not bad with the red and the white too.


We had a surprising consensus on many of the matches. A lot of the traditional matching rules went out the window. The most matching wines were: the white Verdejo, the rosé cava, and the white cava, in that order. Many people focus on red with cheeses, but in tasting after tasting, I've found aromatic whites and rosés of all types to be the winners. Older cured cheeses are the hardest cheeses to match by far.


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This is one of most famous appetizer that I've known when I go to a pasty and it is delicious but I just prefer to taste it with white wine.

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Here is Spain there's no more beloved couple than wine and Cheese.
It might be because of the high quality of both and how the taste compliment each other.. but it's perfect

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It is a great combination, cheese and wine, the taste in the mouth is very different depending on the cheese.

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Nice i agree with that statement and i also know thatfor every wine there is a cheese that goes perfectly with it.

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Sarah Hall said...

In fact, I also appreciate intellectually the great Pedro Ximenez (PX) wines of Spain, but I don't like them that much because of tart taste. Did you visit research paper writer services for your academic needs?