Winelander – June 28, 2024

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AN ANCIENT ANECDOTE CHANGED TO A MORE MODERN VERSION. A prominent wine judge suffered a serious injury in a car accident on his way to a wine show and carried unconscious to a nearby house. A doctor who was called began to clean the wound with some old wine he found, some of which trickled down and touched the wine judge’s lips. He suddenly blinked and opened his mouth; everyone leaned forward to hear his last words, which he whispered: Grange 1974…

Let’s consider having a wine and cheese tasting and how to make it a successful event. Wine is the perfect match with food, and over the years, I have been fortunate to have been involved with some outstanding events, but with the extensive varieties of wines and cheese styles from around the world, let’s concentrate just on cheese. Having a dinner party, the cheese becomes the final course, following the entrée, main course and dessert, and it can be made all the more interesting with a matching of fine wine. The French serve cheese before dessert, and the English finish the meal with a cheese platter after the dessert. In Italy, a piece of hard cheese with good bread is considered a meal on its own; here in Australia, we tend to follow the English tradition, although when having friends around, we tend to offer cheese and crackers before dinner, and I think that also works well.

Firstly, temperature plays an important part and cheese should be served at room temperature and be balanced by the ‘weight’ of the wine; a big, bold wine and a light, delicate cheese or vice versa would destroy the effect you are trying to achieve for example the whiter and fresher the cheese you are serving will suit a young fresh, crisp white wine. The stronger and more mature cheese will suit a darker, heavier wine, not necessarily a red wine, though; remember, acid likes acid and sweetness in wine counterbalances the salt in cheese. Finally, keep accompaniments simple to avoid flavour clashes. After all, we are trying to complement the two and finish a successful dinner.

When serving cheese, it is important to be in prime condition, especially with softer white mould and washed rind cheese. These have an optimum eating time, after which the aroma will affect the matching of the wine. Use a separate knife for each style of cheese, try to present the cheese cut finely and not in chunks, and, of course, ensure each style of cheese has a different glass.

With the cheese taken out of the fridge half an hour to an hour before serving to come to room temperature, sparkling wine should be served very chilled straight from the fridge at around 3.5 to 5 degrees C, although with an expensive Champagne, perhaps a couple of degrees higher to allow the aroma of the wine to come out. Young white wines are 7 degrees to 12 degrees, with more mature white wines at the higher end, red wines and fortified wines around 17 degrees C; here in Australia, on a warm evening, half an hour in the fridge before serving in sensible as there is nothing worse than warm red wine. Fresh unripened cheeses such as cottage cheese, cream cheese, ricotta, mascarpone, and feta matured in brine will match well with sparkling wine such as Champagne or Prosecco, aromatic wine such as Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Pinot Gris, medium-bodied red wine such as Pinot Noir, Merlot (both can be served slightly chilled), and Grenache, and dessert wines such as late-picked or lateharvested styles.

White mould cheeses such as Brie and Camembert will match well with a buttery Chardonnay, a style that develops well from California, sparkling wines, or even fortified wine.

One of my faves for matching with wine is blue cheeses such as Roquefort, Stilton, and Gorgonzola, which really stand out when matched with dessert wines, especially botrytis styles of Riesling or Semillon. I remember tasting a Victorian cheese that had a very distinctive aroma, something approaching the smell of a marathon runner’s shoes after the run, but strangely, the flavour was amazing, and the match with the wine was fabulous.

Cheeses such as Edam, Menthal, Gouda, Gruyere, and Havarti match well with full-bodied white wines such as aged Chardonnay or Semillon, medium-bodied reds, dessert wines, or fortified wines.

Mild Cheddar, Mature Cheddar, Vintage Cheddar, Colby, Red Leceister, Cheshire, or Lancashire cheeses match well with fullbodied white wines and reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Tempranillo, Rioja, Chianti, Malbec, and Mataro (Mourvedre).

Parmesan, Pecorino, and Romano are mainly grated sharp cheeses with sharp, robust flavours, and they need intense, full-bodied red or white wines, fortified wines, and sparkling wines.

Cheers Philip Arlidge

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