Wine and Cheese

Toronto, Canada devotes an entire convention to Wine and Cheese that has been held for more than 20 years. However, one shouldn't become too excited, because the pairing of cheese and wine goes back at least 4,000 years.

There are a few similarities between cheese and wine, these include: both are made from living substances and both improve with age, both are a product of fermentation, the process by which yeast cells introduce chemical changes and both reflect their terroir. Terrior refers to the combination of soil, climate and region the product originates in.

Traditionalists suggest pairing wine and cheese according to region or strength because this will prevent one from dominating the other. This is partially due to tannin levels. Red wines are fermented with the skins and therefore have a higher concentration than white. This affects the pairing characteristics of wine and cheese. The protein and fat contained in cheese will help coat the palate therefore reducing the harshness of excess tannin.

In France this view goes so far that it is incorporated into the AOC laws. The Appellation d'Origine Controlee is a set of regulations dictating grape growing and winemaking conditions, labeling, output, etc. Many times this match works very well such as the historic Grand Cru Montrachet is a perfect partner for the Montrachet Goat Cheese. They have been made side by side for centuries.

While wines with higher tannin content pair well with harder cheeses, creamy cheeses require a wine with higher acidity, and whiter, fresher cheeses complement a crisper, fruitier wine. Light reds or even Chardonnay pair well with heavy cheeses. A few examples are; Caraway and Gewurztraminer, Feta and Beaujolais, Havarti and Bordeaux.

Anyone who enjoys a sweet or dessert wine should seek out a strong, veined cheese, while a full-bodied white or younger red with lower tannins goes well with a soft, bloomy white or red dotted rind.

A few examples are: a Sauvignon Blanc or Viognier or Riesling, even a Pinot Blanc, pairs wonderfully with many Goat's cheeses such as Fontina or Feta, Averti or Emmental. A dry Gewurztraminer will pair perfectly with Brie or Camembert, Livarot or Oka, and a Gamay Noir or Cabernet Franc, even Barberesco, goes well with no rind, a Gouda, Gruyere or Munster.

When a complex Pinot Noir or Syrah is chosen, or even one of the new Super Tuscans pair it with a Chaput, Langres, or Gubbeen. Choose an oiled Parmigiano, Cantal or Tilsit to pair with that Bordeaux or Grenache.

Finally, for the sweet Vouvray or Sauternes, or a favorite Auxe Icewine search for a blue-veined cheese such as; a Cambonzola, Moutonniere, or Mascarpone.

A traditionalist will certainly favor the tried and true rules of red with this and white with that or full-bodied with full-flavored and light with light. Radicals advocate experimentation and will favor anything new and zesty and all this time the anarchist will say: 'Down with the rules!' Whatever one's preference, all can agree that wine and cheese are a perfect pair.

Swirl the wine gently, sniff and taste.

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