Monday, February 23, 2009

Pairing Wine and Cheese

One of my favorite things to do when I am not behind the bar, is to enjoy a flight of wines that have been well-paired with a cheese tray. As much as I adore and prefer reds, I love seeing what happens to whites when they are paired correctly! This set of pairings will contain a white, a red and a fortified wine. Although you might typically prefer one style of wine over another, I highly encourage you to stretch outside of your comfort zone and try these. You might discover a new love.

This first pairing is considered ages old. The wine is Chateau de Sancerre and the cheese is a goat gouda. Sancerre is the name for both a style and a region from the Loire Valley in France. Sancerre wines are always 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Chateau de Sancerre is a winery that sits in the heart of Sancerre and is owned by Chateau Lapostolle in Chile. The wine is perfectly refreshing with subtle floral and flint qualities, the body is structured with fantastic acidity, carrying soft fruit and grass notes. A goat gouda is perfect for people who are looking to experience goat cheese for the first time or who typically don't like it. This cheese is much softer with less acidity than one often sees in a goat cheese. It is semi hard with a creamy, slightly elastic texture. The pairing of Chateau de Sancerre and a goat gouda works well because both are fairly mild with similar acidity. It is the similar accidity styles that makes for a very happy, balanced marriage between the two.

The second pairing is Taurasi Gaetano with a 6 year-old yellow cheddar from Wisconsin. Taurasi is chiefly made with Aglianico (ah-LYAH-nee-koe), a black grape originating from Greece. It is produced in province of Avellion, a region of Campania, not far from Mount Vesuvius. This wine is big and rustic with lots of tannins, very little fruit and a dry finish.The cheese is fairly strong and sharp yet strikes the perfect balance with a creamy finish. I absolutely adore this pairing. When paired, Taurasi Gaetano and the cheddar morph into something better together than either was alone. The Taurasi goes from being a big tannic bully to a full bodied supple red. The cheddar is able to stand up to it perfectly, softening the wine yet remaining present to the palate.

The third and final pairing is one of my all-time favorites and possibly doubles as my favorite dessert as well. It is Domaine de Coyeux Muscat de Beaumes de Venise with Roquefort. Pairing blue cheese and dessert wine or port is not a new concept, but sometimes unknown. It is a pairing that is always fun to introduce to people who have never experienced it before. I have converted many blue cheese or fortified wine haters with this capricious pairing. The name Domaine de Coyeux Muscat de Beaumes de Venise is a mouthful. To break it down a bit, Domaine de Coyeux is the producer, Muscat is the grape and Beaumes de Venise is a sweet-wine appellation in the south of France. I love this dessert wine because it isn't cloying and filled with overwhelming sugar. It is, however, filled with abundantly floral and apricot fragrances carrying through with touches of sweet citrus on the palate. Roquefort or 'king of blue cheese", made from sheep's milk, is complex, creamy and pungent. But where the blue could become overwhelming, the wine settles it and rounds out the flavor. This pairing is fun because the cheese manages to retain what it is outside of the wine, while still bringing balance to its partner.

I personally extend an invitation to you; whether at the bar, in the lounge, or relaxing at a table, to try one of these pairing. At Mercy Wine Bar, we would be thrilled to put together one of these pairings or we could create one of the many other possible wine and cheese trays with our outstanding selections!

Jacqueline Thain