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The Cliff House BlogWine and Cheese Pairing


01 Aug, 2014

Part Deux - The Savage Kitchen

A Second Look at Pairing Cheese and Wine

By Special Guest Blogger Eric Ewers

- Cliff House Sommelier & Author of Wine Flights of Fancy

As classic as can be' wine and cheese pairings are an integral part of our collective gastronomic heritage. Enjoying this historic combination offers a glimpse of the thoughts desires and needs of our ancient ancestors connecting tomorrow's lunch with yesterday's distant forefathers. In an effort to provide continuity with our past - and to facilitate a heightened daily experience - I offer some classic pairings that expand not only our dining pleasure' but also our sense of belonging.
First' let&rsquo s address some basic rules you can follow if unsure of a particular pairing. Younger softer cheese often pairs well with a light bodied off dry-to-dry style of white wine. On the other hand older harder cheese is typically best with a dry white wine that shows a little more body. Sweetness in a cheese pairs well with sweetness in a wine and a salty cheese is usually best served with a tart wine of high acidity. Red wines it turns out are a little trickier to pair. A good although general rule: lighter cheese is best with a red wine of high acidity and soft tannins' while a robust cheese works nicely with a tannic red wine of light acidity.
Lets get to some pairings. Gruyere is a hard' yellow cheese from Switzerland made from unpasteurized cows milk. In its youth Gruyere has a delicate salty-sweet flavor that is best complimented by semi-sweet light-bodied white wines &ndash think domestic Muscat or Argentine Torronté s. As Gruyere ages it develops a bolder earthy quality best complimented by a dry full-bodied white wine. Un-oaked Chardonnay works well' with Chablis being a perfect match.

From Mexico we get Cotija' a hard cows milk cheese with salty grassy flavors in youth that develop into savory parmesan-like flavors with age. To compliment the salty nature of this cheese look for a light to medium bodied white wine with high acidity and low sugar. Rieslings from Austria or from the Alsace region of France work great here' as well as &ndash and this should be almost intuitive &ndash Corona with a good squeeze of lime.
So lets talk Spain. From La Mancha' the heartland of Spain hails Manchego. Made from ewe&rsquo s milk Manchego is aged at least two months and often for two years or more. This firm buttery cheese develops a pronounced earthy and nutty flavor with time as well as - dare I say it - the subtle bouquet of vaquero saddle. While many indigenous Spanish red wines will complement Manchego I recommend a nice Rioja or Ribera del Duero for an expressive local example of the Tempranillo and Garnache varietals. With lower acidity supple tannins and aromas of sweet tobacco and leather these wines will complement Manchego&rsquo s earthy nutty and yes' slightly sweaty flavors.

On to our just desserts' and this you really must try. From the tiny King Island off the coast of Tasmania comes Roaring Forties Blue. This pasteurized cows milk cheese is aged a mere four to five weeks before being dipped in thick black wax. The seal created causes an anaerobic environment that halts further aging of the cheese. For this reason Roaring Forties Blue is a sweet creamy and delicate blue cheese with a gentle nutty flavor. Two words &ndash Tawny Port. With their respective sweet and nutty qualities' this wine and cheese create a haunting echo of one another - while the smooth and creamy Roaring Forties Blue gentles the sting of Tawny Ports&rsquo high alcohol content.

I hope you have the opportunity to try these combinations' and to enjoy a little piece of where we&rsquo re from. Be sure to keep in mind however' that taste is subjective and your own palate should always be the final authority. Enjoy