Today is January 20th. Do you know what that means? It's National Cheese Lovers' Day!
I'm from Minnesota, so while I am not technically a "cheese-head", I am a strong advocate of cheeses of all varietals. Having had lots of experience eating it, I thought it only fitting to celebrate this delightful dairy-filled day by posting my favorite wine and cheese pairings. My hope is that you try one (or try them all!) and that you enjoy them as much as I do. After all, there's nothing that a bottle of wine and a platter of cheese can't fix!
7. Feta and Pinot Grigio: The word feta means "slice", and it's one of the world's oldest cheeses. With all that time to be perfected, it's no surprise that it's absolutely delicious - soft, crumbly, salty, and acidic, it's best paired with a wine with even higher acidity - that won't be overpowered by the cheese. (This is also why feta pairs so well with highly acidic foods; think lemons, tomatoes, and olives.) Enter Pinot Grigio: a mutation of Pinot Noir that's known for being a zesty, mouth puckering little number featuring notes of lemon, lime, melon, peach, and honey...my cheeks are tingling already!
6. Manchego and Tempranillo: This pairing is a great demonstration of the phrase "what grows together goes together." Manchego hails from the La Mancha region of Spain and comes from sheep of the Manchega breed. While younger versions taste of cheesecake and tangy notes, as the cheese ages, it develops delightful notes of caramel and nuts, while still maintaining its acidic characteristic. Tempranillo is Spain's most popular wine varietal, made famous by Rioja, where they age in oak. This aging process develops flavors of vanilla, woodsmoke, brown sugar, and coconut to compliment the primary aromas of sour cherry, dried blueberries, and fig.
5. Herb-driven cheeses and Sancerre: Chives, dill, chervil - we've likely all encountered a cheese packed with an explosion of herbal flavors at some point - and for a reason. The herbal notes when combined with the tang and cream of the cheese create nothing short of a match made in heaven. Sancerre is a region of the Loire Valley that grows Sauvignon Blanc featuring high acidity and notes of lemongrass, green bell pepper, chervil, dill, slate, as well as primary aromas of citrus and tropical fruits. Give this combination a try and you'll be singing to the lords of lactose in no time!
4. Fruit-Filled Cheeses and Beaujolais: If you've browsed the "fancy cheese" selection at your local grocery store lately, you've probably seen at least a couple cheeses featuring fruit, and this makes sense. The sweet nature of the fruit balances perfectly with the creamy, tang of the cheese. This is the same reason why strawberries or blueberries work so well with cheesecake! Looking to throw a wine into the mix? Try a Beaujolais! This wine is bursting with fresh fruit flavors, so it will hold up to the fruit in the cheese. Beaujolais is named for the region in which it grows, but is made of Gamay grapes and features notes of raspberry, fresh strawberry, pomegranate, and hibiscus.
3. Bleu Cheese and Sauternes - Bleu cheese is made with cultures of the mold Penicillium, which gives it those characteristic blue/green spots throughout. This cheese is notoriously pungent, yet creamy, tangy, and salty at the same time, and perhaps not surprisingly, it pairs wonderfully with Sauternes - a sweet yet acidic dessert wine from Bordeaux featuring notes of lemon curd, apricot, honey, butter, and peach preserves. It may seem a little strange, but the grapes used to make Sauternes are affected by noble rot, which causes the grapes to become partially raisined, giving them a sweet, concentrated flavor. Who knew you could make such a delicious snack out of rotting grapes and moldy cheese! My WSET instructor from Napa Wine Academy suggested adding a drizzle of honey to this mix...it is OUT OF THIS WORLD! But don't take my word for it - give it a try for yourself!
**Be warned, if you don't like bleu cheese, you're not likely to enjoy this combo. Truth be told, wine does not alter the taste of food. Instead, the food has the potential to bring out the magic in wine. This is why pairing wine with food is an age-old tradition that quite frankly, never gets old!
2. Baked Brie Cheese with Prosecco: Brie is a soft cow's milk cheese named after the French region from which it originated. It has a rich, creamy, buttery, fruity, and earthy flavor that's complex yet truly delightful and it pairs perfectly with bubbly Prosecco! Prosecco is Italy's most popular sparkling wine and is made from Glera grapes. Its texture is perfect for lifting the cream in the cheese and cleansing the palate between bites. What does Prosecco taste like? Think notes of lemon zest, pear, yellow apple, gardenia, and honeysuckle.
Cheddar or Gouda with Cabernet Sauvignon: Cheddar and gouda are both made from cow's milk, share similar densities and textures, and quite resemble one another in terms of taste, too. It doesn't come as a surprise, then, that these two creamy companions pair well with the same partner in wine. Cabernet Sauvignon is a full bodied, highly acidic wine with lots of tannins and oak notes, which are accentuated when paired with the salty, acidic cheeses. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted grape varietal in the world featuring notes of cherry, juicy plum, baking spices, vanilla, and cedar.
Enjoy National Cheese Lovers' Day and treat yourself to a delectable wine and cheese pairing today! Didn't see your favorite combo on this list? Drop me a comment and let me know your favorites!
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Cheers, Corkers and until next time-