Cheese. Wine. The ultimate party starters, right? Well, yes they can be, but they can also be disastrous. There is a knack for pairing cheese with wine, but it can be made simple by following a few suggestions. Here are a few items to help you, courtesy of Oklahoma’s own “Cheese Wench,” Amanda Jane Simcoe:
- Terroir – a fancy French word that basically means “sense of place”. Where is the cheese from? Find a wine from the same region. Their flavors will complement each other. Europeans have been making cheese and wine for centuries, they know a little bit about making flavors work together. Classic examples of this are French Chevre and a Loire Valley Vouvray, which is Chenin Blanc.
- Body/Texture – is the cheese really creamy? A Triple Cream Brie? Camembert? Epoisses? Simcoe says look to the “scrubbing bubbles”. Champagne and sparkling wines should be your choice, let the acidity and bubbles refresh your palate between bites of cheese like this.
- Big Bold Blue – Blues can range from mild all the way to slaps in the face sweat sock stinky and sharp. It’s mold, after all, that makes the blue veins in cheese. Personally the stinkier the blue, the more I like it. I love the sharpness, and the contrast between the creaminess and the funk. Try a nice Port with cheeses like this, the sweetness of the Port, the elevated alcohol in them and the mouth feel all make Port our favorite choice with the sharpness of blue cheese.
- Proper serving temperatures and storage – One of Simcoe’s biggest pet peeves is serving cheese at the wrong temperature. Cheese should be served at room temperature to let the cheese bloom. When the cheese warms, the fats loosen up and the cheese becomes more permeable. When serving cheese at parties, cut the cheese cold and only put out the amounts of cheese you think you will be using. Wrap the rest of the cheese and place back in the fridge. Once the fats have surfaced on the cheese, which part of the blooming process, they will not go back into the cheese. This makes for the dry crumbly cracked cheese that we have all experienced. Wines need to be served at their proper temperatures as well. Most people serve their white wines too cold and reds too warm. Proper temperature lets you experience the wine as its meant to be enjoyed. Enjoy your white wines in the 43-55 F range. Drink your reds in the 50-64 F range. The key to knowing the proper temp for your wine is this: Bubbles coldest, working your way to heavier bodied wines on the warmer end of the scale. The same goes with the reds. Lighter bodied the coolest, working your way to the biggest and boldest being the warmest.
If you have any questions about proper temperature for a certain wine, ask your favorite wine store sales person. They know more than you think. Some are Certified Sommeliers, Certified Wine Specialists or even Educators. They are there to and love to help, do not be intimidated by them.
Get out there and enjoy some cheese and wine!
The next blog will feature specific wine and cheese pairings from local stores that are affordable and practical! Stay tuned..