Choose Your Own Adventure Wine & Cheese Pairing

Posted on July 6, 2014 09:04 pm

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DG_wine_and_cheese_pairing_class_flight_2.jpg

This guest blog post comes to us from food blogger Layla Khoury-Hanold of Glass of Rosé. Follow her adventures in eating, cooking and drinking on Twitter @glassofrose and Instagram @theglassofrose.

This class was easily one of my favorite classes of the season and the ideal way to spend a Saturday afternoon. While there were two wine flights, structured from east subtle to most powerful and each with a designated cheese pairing, it was clear from the get go that we were in for a dynamic tasting and engaging dialogue, both between our hosts and with the class.

Elizabeth Chubbuck, head of wholesale for Murray’s Cheese, encouraged us to take risks and mix and match. “I like to break the rules. There’s a certain vulnerability in pairings and you’re not sure it’s going to work.”

She went on to make a very valuable point, and one that everyone should keep in mind if they feel intimidated by the notion of pairings, of any kind really. And that is the fact that you can learn more trying something that ends up displeasing you than pleasing you.

The wines were from Abe Schoener, aka the Walter White of winemaking, as dubbed by Sal. Talk about another rulebreaker! Abe makes the grapes bend to his will to create unconventional, cult-favorite wines.

One of the most important – and enjoyable – parts of wine and cheese pairings is the tasting. Here are some tips we gleaned for how to properly taste:

Wine

  1. Look: Tilt the glass at a 45-degree angle against a white surface – look at it from the middle to upper rim and observe the color from deepest to lightest.
  2. Smell: Before you swirl, smell the wine and keep your mouth open.
  3. Swirl: Agitate the wine by swirling it around in the glass, smell it again, and notice how the aromas have changed as it reacts to the atmosphere.
  4. Pause: What expectations have formed around the quality, aromas, taste and structure of the wine?
  5. Taste: Pull air into your mouth while sipping. It will create a slurping sound and though it’s something you wouldn’t normally do at the dinner table, it reveals hidden things in the wine.
  6. Reflect: How or why did the wine meet or defy your expectations? Identify what it is that you like. Be precise about why you like it, but don’t worry about terminology.

Cheese

  1. Look: Observe it visually first. Is it uniform in texture? What does the rind look like?
  2. Smell: What does it smell like? Is it floral, fruity, tart, buttery?
  3. Smush: Take a small piece and press it between your thumb and forefinger. Observe the texture of the “paste”. Does it disintegrate? Is it slightly chalky?
  4. Taste it alone: Pay attention to how it breaks down in the mouth; for example, if it becomes pulverized and dries out, then the mouth waters and it becomes creamy.
  5. Taste it again: This time with the wine. Does the cheese accentuate qualities in the wine? Did it make the wine taste sweeter?

My favorite cheese and wine match made in heaven came at the beginning of the second flight. Here are my tasting notes:

Scholium 2009 Riquewhir + Challerhocker semi-soft cooked-pressed raw cow cheese

This white wine, pale gold in color, comes in half bottles and only 200 cases are produced per year. It has out of control aromatics with a pungent, citrusty smell, like candied lemon peel, mixed with a briny, ocean smell. It tasted of citrus and fruits, with a juicy, minerally palate contributing to a well-balanced sweetness to acidity ratio. 

Scholium_Riquewihr_wine.jpg

The Challerhocker, a Murray's Cheese best-seller, has a smooth, dense and compact appearance and spreads like dough when smushed. It was nuttier and creamier than I expected, with a granular texture. Its name means 'left in the cellar' - the crystalline crunch comes from the formation of amino acids, which is typical of long-aging cheeses.

Challerhocker_Cheese_Murray's.jpg

Together, the flavors were explosive, with the salty cheese's caramelized onion flavors playing off of the sweet, citrus notes of the wine. This particular pairing also aligns in the coursing of a dinner party - both play well at the end of the meal, signalling the start of the party to follow.




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