Wine and cheese are both born of fermentation—a technique devised by the ancients to preserve their fresh foods. Good artisan cheese reflects a sense of place in the same way as a carefully grown wine. Some only reveal facets of their true character and achieve greater complexity as they age. It is no cliché that cheese and wine are meant for one another. Presented together simply, or more elaborately, they are pure pleasure!
The Perfect Circle Pinots are far too good to waste so, after the big plates are cleared, a little cheese with the last few drops makes everything come out even. Personally, I’d rather have cheese than dessert and, once I’ve spied the cheese cart in a restaurant, I would almost prefer to skip courses and feast solely on cheese.
Whether I serve cheese in place of, before, or after a meal, it is an important part of our wine culture and our lives. Life is too short to drink bad wine and eat bad cheese.
Collect beautiful boards with fine or artful grains, unfinished or rubbed with edible oils. Scraps of slate, marble or tiles can make a beautiful resting place for cheese.
Scavenge antique shops or rummage sales for unique knives & spreaders. You never know where you will find the favorites that you will cherish. Silver, bone, steel and wood—the more varied the better.
Use pitchers or crockery for long breadsticks, stack crackers on a beautiful plate. Chipped and cherished are as important as polished and fancy. Little cups or bowls can hold a variety of accompaniments.
Less is better. One striking wheel of cheese or a large wedge can be more impressive than many varieties. A most memorable Burgundian lunch served to me years ago, consisted of a simple wheel of local cheese and some cold and grilled sausages. Cheese making in the US has come far over the last 20 years, and cheeses produced rival the European counterparts that inspired their creation. But don’t bite the hand that fed them, it’s nice to mix old and new world to keep it lively.
CHEESE FOR PINOT NOIR
Cheese for Pinot Noir: Choose cow’s milk or buttery sheep’s milk, semi-soft cheese. Pinot Noir soars with an aged Mezzo Secco from Vella Cheese, San Andreas from Bellwether Farms or Midnight Moon Goat Gouda from Cypress Hill. A young Pinot with a kiss of youthful fruit will work with the interior of a molded rind soft goat cheese such as Goat’s Leap or Humboldt Fog from Cypress Hill, but mind the bite from the rind. Fiscalini Bandage-wrapped Cheddar transcends all styles of red and white wines. A big wedge of this cheese is a sure bet for any gathering.
The world is your wedge when it comes to putting together white wine cheeses. It’s the red wine tannins that tend to clash with runny, soft cheese and molded rinds. Try all kinds of goat, fresh, molded rind fresh and aged, creamy sheep or mixed milk as well as stronger challenging cheeses such as Old Kentucky Tome from Capriole Farm... it will sing with fruity and somewhat austere whites.
Add olive oil and herb roasted almonds with some simple crackers and crusty bread, perhaps a few olives or cornichons. Pickled items are refreshing but not meant to be eaten just before sipping. Choose a bite of cheese, a sip of wine, and then later on, a nip of pickle to lift your palate before repeating. Jams are fine in moderation but they themselves will clash with the wines.
Until the next wine