I just moved to a new neighborhood, and I have to admit, I have been pretty depressed. Working from home isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, and I needed to meet people. So I joined the social committee. My first initiative? Cheese, of course. I convinced my neighbors that we should do a cheese and wine tasting. To be honest, it wasn’t that hard to convince them, considering we’re all heavy drinkers in the ‘hood. My husband wanted to do a cognac tasting, because all he drinks is Hennessy. While I admired the thought, all I could imagine was the older people in my community slurring words and falling asleep in public places like my husband does. Not a good look.  Instead, we decided to do wine and cheese.

A few tips if you want to do this in your own neighborhood:

  1. We pre-made all of the plates with 1/2 ounce of each cheese. Any more than 8 cheeses is a bit much.
  2. I put together a checklist for people to keep track of what they liked and didn’t like — this makes it easy for people to remember what they liked, especially after 8 glasses of wine. I also put a note at the bottom letting them know the pricing and where we got each of the cheeses and wines. Here is a generic Wine and Cheese Tasting Form that you can use, too.
  3. We chose to be a little less formal — everyone was standing. This works well if you have one small plate for the cheeses, and places around the room to rest things.
  4. We took a little break in between wines, so people could mingle and talk, and be social. It worked well, getting people talking about the wines and cheeses.
  5. We used one wine glass, but provided a dump bucket and pitchers of water for people to wash out glasses. (Most people were licking the bottom of the glass, but this way you have an option if people don’t love what they got.) Be sure you encourage people to rinse their glasses between the white and red wine sections, and definitely before the dessert wine.
  6. My neighbors, who picked out the wine, bought pourers that automatically cut off after 1 ounce. This was essential to make sure no one over-poured, and everyone got a taste. We planned for 1 ounce per person per wine. After about 20 people, you need to bump up to a second bottle.
  7. You want to tell everyone to taste the wine first, then the cheese, and then them both together. They need to know what they like/don’t like about the pairing.
  8. Pairings are about your own tastes — just because you like something doesn’t mean other people will.
  9. Just a note on the pairings below — usually you taste from the lightest and freshest cheese to the most aged/pungent cheese. I skipped around so that the cheeses meshed with the wines. The wines were the star of this story. It’s a little non-traditional, but it worked well.

Here are our pairings, and some of my notes.

PAIRING 1

Riondo Prosecco (NV, Italy) with St. Andre (Cow, France, 4 weeks)

Why this works: Both the wine and the cheese are light in texture. Almost fluffy. The bubbles in the wine cut the fat in the cheese, cleaning your palette after the fat in the cheese coats your tongue.

PAIRING 2

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand) with Humboldt Fog (goat, California, 3 months)

Why this works: Acidic  wine + Acidic cheese = mellow flavor. The tartness in the cheese offsets the acidity in the Sauvignon Blanc.

PAIRING 3

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Chardonnay (2009, California) with Camembert (cow, France, 3 weeks)

Why this works: Chardonnay can be hard to pair because of its has oaky flavors. This is especially true of Chardonnays from California. Camembert is a strong cheese that can stand up to it. Chardonnay is aged in oak, and Camembert is aged in caves with straw. The earthiness in both mesh well together.

PAIRING 4

Woop Woop Shiraz (2010, Australia) with Parmigiano-Reggiano (cow, Italy, 24 months)

Why this works: Shiraz is known for being fruity and a little rustic. When I think of rustic cheeses, I think of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Shiraz has some of those spicy and peppery and fruit flavors which pair well with the saltiness of the cheese. The combination of a lighter red wine and the Parmigiano is a classic one in Italy. It just works.

PAIRING 5

Deloach Pinot Noir (2009, California) with Gruyere (cow, Switzerland, 16 months)

 Why this works: Pinot Noir is a great lighter wine that melds with a lot of flavors. Pinot Noir is very fruit forward, and works well with the nuttiness and sweetness of the cheese. The Gruyere has a smooth mouthfeel and a little creaminess, so it makes those tannins disappear.

PAIRING 6

Bogle Old Vines Zinfandel (2009, California) with Gouda (cow, Holland, 3 years)

Why this works: Zinfandel is a little dry, but has jammy blackberry and plummy fruit. When you combine the two, the sweetness of the gouda and the fruit in the Zinfandel reminds me of a berry tart. The gouda has a little crunch as well, so the texture reminds you of toffee.

PAIRING 7

Beaulieu Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (2007, California) with Munster (cow, France, 8 weeks)

Why this works: Cabernet is a big red wine, and this is a big stinky cheese. Cabs have leather, woody flavors, and this cheese is very “barnyardy” and rustic. The smoothness of this cheese also helps to calm down the tannins.

PAIRING 8

Kafer Riesling Berenauslele (NV, Gemany) with Valdeón (cow, goat, Spain, 3 months)

Why this works: Dessert wines are sweet, and the flavor opposite of sweet is salty. Salt is used in the preparation of this cheese, and the balance of these two is great. Valdeon is not as spicy as other blues, and Riesling isn’t as heavy as most dessert wines. The pairing is delicious.

Want some help putting together your own party? Need more notes or talking points on the cheeses or the wines? Contact me at: dana@casacheesewine.com.

Enjoy!

~ Dana

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