Suggestions for pairing wine and cheese.
By Louis Marmon
Gazette Newspapers November 15, 2006
Wine and cheese have been enjoyed together for centuries. Served either side-by-side or, like the ancient Greeks, mixed together in goblets, it remains a classic combination.
There are no fixed rules regarding the pairing of cheese and wine; however, being careful is necessary to avoid gastronomic conflict. With some combinations, the flavors of one can overwhelm the other. And other pairings dramatically change the flavors from enjoyable to offending. A few guidelines to consider are pairing soft cheeses with white wines and trying to match the flavor intensity of the cheese with the wine to avoid conflict.
Another helpful principle is to select a wine from the same country that produces the cheese. The effect of local culture, climate and history usually produces complementary flavors. Italy, France and Spain can each boast of superb local wine/cheese combinations such as Sauternes with Roquefort or Barbera with Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Recently, the restaurant Jaleo held its first annual Spanish Wine and Cheese Festival to showcase various wine and cheese combinations from that country. Selected by the chefs and managers, six cheeses were offered with six different wines. Participants were encouraged to mix and match to find the pairing that best appealed to their palates.
‘‘Spanish cheeses are perfect with Spanish wines,” says Jaleo’s General Manager Manny Flores. ‘‘The variety of flavors means that everyone can find a pair that works for them.”
Jaleo’s Beverage Coordinator Sonnett Malan is equally enthusiastic.
‘‘We are committed to showcasing these wines and cheeses,” says Malan, who also manages Jaleo’s Spanish wine store in Virginia. ‘‘The quality is first class, and the wines are very food friendly.”
One of the best Spanish white wines is Belondrade Y Lurton 2003 ($42), made from Verdjo grown in the Rueda region. With mango and vanilla oak flavors as well as hazelnut and a bit of orange, it works well with the creamy La Serena sheep’s milk cheese from the southwestern Extremadura area. An additional superb paring is the medium-bodied Genium Celler 2003 ($34), a blend of Grenache, Carignan and Merlot with lovely raspberry notes, with the nutty Manchego al Romero, a sheep’s milk cheese from Castilla la Mancha.
An excellent value is the Luna Beberide Mencia 2004 ($14), with a floral aroma, cranberry and raspberry flavors and a lingering finish. Garrotxa, a nutty, somewhat herbal goat cheese from Catalunya, is a perfect complement. Another value-priced offering is the Conde de Valdemar 2002 ($13), a 100 percent Tempranillo wine from Rioja. With dark fruit and cherry flavors, it’s perfect with Murcia al Vino, a goat cheese made in a small area in southeastern Spain.
One of the true delights of the evening was the Bodegas Toro Albala Don PX 2002 ($20 per 375 ml) a luscious, raisin and fig-flavored dessert wine from Montilla-Moriles. With great balance, coffee, honey and Asian spice notes, along with a long finish, it is wonderful with some Cabrales, considered the finest blue cheese produced in Spain.
The Emilio Lustau Amontillado ‘‘Los Arcos” ($14) is a terrific introduction to Sherry. A real bargain considering its quality, it has smoky walnut, raisins and molasses flavors with nutty aromas and a finish of nut and caramel. Serve it with Mahon, a semi-hard slightly nutty cow’s milk cheese from the Balear Islands, located off the southwest Iberian coast.