The connection between wine and cheese
In 1975, I started working for J.E. Lightbourn and a priest by the name of Frank Henriques wrote The Signet Encyclopaedia of Wine.
It was possibly the very first wine book that I purchased, and as he often quoted the Bible, it certainly prepared me for a question that I was asked some years ago.
I was in the wine department of one of our supermarkets when I was approached by a customer who asked if I knew anything about wine.
When I gave an affirmative nod she indicated that she wanted to know about wine and Jesus.
“Timothy suggested to no longer only drink water but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments,” I said.
I quoted Ecclesiastes where it is written: “Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart.”
I was just getting on a roll when I noticed her puzzled look: “I am not sure if your heard me correctly, but I did ask if you knew anything about wine and cheeses.”
We had a good laugh and then we spoke of wine and cheese, which I intend to do now.
The connection, of course, is the animal with the one-word vocabulary of “moo”.
Milk softens the tannins in my cup of tea and chemically protects the lining of my mouth from them.
Beef-steak lessens the astringency of red wine and releases more of the fruit flavours; tannins in red wine soften the fat to release more meat flavour. And then there is cheese.
The French have a saying: “What grows together goes together.” If you can find a goat cheese from the Loire Valley, it would be lovely with Sancerre.
Pale and vibrant in colour, the 2016 Pascal Jolivet Sancerre is fresh and clean with racy acidity.
Overall, it is an elegant sauvignon blanc that the Wine Spectator rates 90/100 and says: “Tangy, with a mix of thyme and lime pith leading the way, backed by gooseberry and flint notes through the finish. Drink now.” $30.30; half-bottle $17.50.
It is our season for lobster and I cannot bear the thought of this crustacean without chardonnay, so maybe it is time to try a couple?
If you decide on a white burgundy, say Drouhin Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2016, a ripe Camembert or Brie would work wonders.
The wines gets 91/100 from critic James Suckling who writes: “Very impressive wine with a flinty and reductive edge, leading to a grapefruit — and lemon-flavoured palate with bracing acidity. Nice, taut and really strong value here.”
All Drouhin Chablis is Demeter-certified as biodynamic wine. $42.25.
I admit to leaning towards a fine Californian chardonnay to partner my lobster as I like the matchup of richness, but this is about cheese.
I would serve a well-aged cheddar with one of these wines. I so often hear complaints about over-oaked New World chardonnay and the truth is that nowadays this is far less prevalent as the wines become more sophisticated and elegant and, most importantly, well-balanced and harmonious.
One might expect European publications to favour their neighbourhood wines, but Decanter magazine rated the Napa Valley Beringer 2014 Private Reserve Chardonnay 95/100 and said: “A fresh, fruity nose brings out notes of white flowers, golden apples and a certain touch of oak. This leads into a round, savoury palate with new oak characteristics, hints of butter and butterscotch, a touch of apple and peach and a long finish.” $51.20.
It takes more than 145 gallons of milk to make one wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano and so we want to have the correct wine to accompany it.
This cheese can be enjoyed with sparkling and white, but we should end this party with a red, so I suggest a wrap-up with Masi Costasera 2012 Amarone.
Here is the opinion of the winemaker: “Powerful, complex aromas of dried plums with ‘balsamic’ (anise, fennel, mint) traces. Quite dry (not sweet), soft and with bright acidity, with baked cherry, chocolate and cinnamon flavours and structured, noble tannins.
“Pair with grilled or roasted red meats, game and hard cheeses like Parmesan. Considered a ‘wine for meditation’, to be sipped on its own; this is also a perfect after-dinner wine.”
James Suckling rates it 94/100 and goes on: “Lots of complexity comes through from the outset on the nose, borne out in terms of smoky black cherries, dried rose stems, asphalt, tar and liquorice. Full, structured body that dives through layers of dark fruit, driven along by active acidity all the way to the long, but not cloying, finish.” $56.30.
We are so fortunate to have such a wide range of cheeses available in our little country. In the United States, if a cheese is to cross state lines, it is required by the FDA to be pasteurised.
I believe that the British are also insisting on this and some say that Stilton is “just not Stilton” any more.
I love to buy the French unpasteurised cheeses available here when I need a special treat.
• This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail email@example.com or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George’s (York Street, 297-0409). Visit wineonline.bm