Some time ago, there was a viral video that spread featuring a machine dispensing creamy, mouthwatering cheese. It almost made me drool all over my keyboard.
A few of my friends who knew about my cheese addiction decided it was a great idea to post it on my Facebook wall (on separate occasions).
My cravings for a proper raclette were born. They were, however, pushed to the back-burner for a few reasons (most days, we were just too busy to actively search for raclette in Manila).
All that changed one evening when the vivacious Karla Reyes of La Petite Fromagerie invited me to a tasting event that featured her delicious cheeses and fabulous wines from Happy Living Philippines.
This being a beverage blog, the event inspired me to write an article about something admittedly challenging: Wine and cheese pairing.
There are many principles to follow and frankly, a lot of the material that I’ve come across over the years has been pretty subjective… There are a few principles, however, that worked for me:
- A chef friend of mine told me that one of the things she learned during her frequent trips to (and research on) Italy was that hard cheese is good with hard wines, and soft cheese is perfect with soft wine. I’ve had success pairing Barolo and Gorgonzola, because the rose flavours and powdery tannins of the Barolo were beautiful with the creamy texture of the cheese.
- It’s good to know the geographical origin of the cheese and wine. If a region specialises in one specific cheese and wine (or beverage), their cheese and wine would most likely pair well. One of our favourite discoveries during our trip to Sancerre is that Sancerre (normally associated with crisp, dry Sauvignon Blanc) is delicious with the region’s specialty, goat’s cheese. I’ve also read about how British cheese generally match with beer and ale, which I’m keen to experiment on one of these days (I would love to replicate the Guinness beer and Guinness cheese pairing I did).
- When in doubt, get a Gewürztraminer (I personally prefer the complexity of Alsatian Gewürztraminer). I find that the floral perfume (Oz Clarke has likened the scent to tea roses, lychee, and Nivea face cream) of a proper Gewürztraminer is perfect for most cheeses (especially the soft, stinky kinds). Many wine scholars swear by this matchup, making the Gewürztraminer the ultimate “failsafe” wine for a cheese party.
- Cheese is the ultimate prelude to dessert, and therefore, sweet beverages (such as port and sweet wines) will be good with sweet wine, such as sweet sherry and Moscato d’Asti (the concept of serving cheese right before dessert is alien to some cultures, which is the reason I’m putting it here).
These rules, however, are not finite. I’ve made a lot of discoveries trying out unorthodox food and cheese combinations, some of which involved a couple of the featured cheeses and wine during La Petite Fromagerie’s function:
- Raclette – This is La Petite Fromagerie’s signature cheese, and is normally served using a heating machine (which I mentioned during the start of this article). This sinfully gooey Swiss cheese theoretically pairs well with Beaujolais, Sangiovese, and Sauvignon Blanc. While it definitely went well with the Gabbiano Chianti Classico (because it is predominantly Sangiovese) served in the event, it was equally nice with Beringer Founder’s Estate Pinot Noir.
- Brie Bridel – This mild, creamy cheese classically pairs with Chardonnay, or a Blanc de Blancs Champagne (made from 100% Chardonnay grapes). Naturally, the Valdivieso Chardonnay was perfect.
- Tete de Moine – This Swiss cheese is normally shaved (with an apparatus that goes around like a wheel) and quite pungent. Theoretically, it’s paired with ale, porter, and stout beer, but the Beringer Founder’s Estate Zinfandel was also nice (my theory was that for a Zinfandel, the Beringer Founder’s Estate had enough heft for the cheese).
- Mozzarella – Found everywhere from sandwiches to pizza, this Italian staple goes with Sangiovese, Prosecco (the Italian sparkling wine), and a number of obscure indigenous Italian grapes. For the evening, unsurprisingly, it was fabulous with the Valdivieso Brut. The interesting pairing, however, was with the Robert Skalli Reserve Merlot (I can’t find any justification for this pairing from any of my books, but it was good).
I’m hoping that this encourages readers to experiment on more cheese and wine pairings. Those who are interested to try it out using some of La Petite Fromagerie’s cheeses can communicate* with them through:
La Petite Fromagerie
They Let us know which pairings worked well. Cheers!
*They cater events too!
Wines featured in this article are available through Happy Living Philippines (http://www.happylivingwines.biz/), with special thanks to Ms. Katherine Yao-Santos
Photos courtesy of Ms. Karla Reyes
Thanks to one of my best buddies JN for the title