Practically any night that I am home, I am pulling out a bottle of wine and opening the cheese drawer in my fridge for a little snacky-snack before dinner. But for this, I got serious (well, as serious as you can get about wine and cheese). I visited my favorite cheese shop in Chicago, Pastoral Artisan (the original one on Broadway) to get some professional advice and some delicious cheeses. And I pressed my friend Mona into service to come over and taste with me. (Mona is a fellow wine freak and is just the person to geek out with over wine and related pairings!)
At Pastoral I met cheesemonger Molly Hess – who won 4th place in the 2019 Cheesemonger Invitational. Alright! I hit the jackpot on cheesemonger magnificence! I told Molly I needed several French cheeses to pair with a handful of French wines and the only criteria was: no blue cheese because it is gross and I can say that, because this is my blog.
I picked four wines to pair with cheese that have kind of stumped me in the past: Champagne, Sancerre, two Rosés and Châteauneuf du Pape. While shopping for cheese, and then tasting the cheeses with five bottles of wine (God, work, work, work!) three tasty take-aways emerged.
Three Tasty Take-Aways
- Go to a cheese shop. Break away from the cold case at the grocery store and talk to a real, live cheesemonger. You will be amazed with their knowledge and it’s fun to taste and talk and discover new cheeses.
- Notice what doesn’t go together. You learn a lot about flavors and aromatics by tasting what’s good as well as what’s not good!
- Temperature Tantrum: This almost goes without saying, but I’m saying it anyway. Cold cheese is like warm wine … it just doesn’t show well. So take it out of the fridge and leave it on the counter til it reaches room temp. Ok, let’s get to the pairings!
Champagne: I was jonesing to pop a bottle of Bollinger and Molly’s first suggestion was bang-on: Brillat Savarin. This is a triple-créme cow’s milk cheese made in Paris clocks in at 75% fat. Yipes! So, you know, it’s like butter. And butter is delicious, as is this cheese. But I cannot believe I have not tried this combo before – because it is HEAVEN! The Bollinger Brut Special Cuvée (about $60) was rich with yeasty aromas and a creamy, almond roundness – like a bakery of bubbles – and it perfectly complemented the funky, buttery, nutty, creamy, cheese. God, it was freaking good. Like a cheese-gasm.
But Molly had a second suggestion to go with Champagne: Comté. Now, I buy Comté all the time, but usually it’s the cheap shit from the grocery store. This Comté was different — aged in a war bunker from the freaking Franco-Prussian war. Are you kidding me? It was nutty, tangy, rich and sharp and divine! Well-done, Molly! And we’ve got four more wines to go!
On to Sancerre. For this classic Loire Sauvignon Blanc, Molly wisely suggested a goat cheese because the Loire Valley is renowned for its goat cheeses.
This Tomme de Grand Mère is covered with a rind made from the ashes of burnt grape leaves! Cool! And it was tangy and tart, and SO good with 2016 Raimbault Sancerre. The wine was singing with Meyer lemon and lime curd, a touch of honey and little ripe melon and had a voluptuous texture. Interesting sidetone: the Brillat-Savarin was totally nasty with this wine – the minerality of Sauvignon Blanc does NOT get along with creamy cheese. Ack!
Next! Rosé. Holy crap, this was a hard one! The biggest take-away from this whole experiment is that rosé is a hard wine to pair with cheese! I think it’s because there are so many styles of rosé. There’s soft, powdery-textured Provençal rosé, there’s more assertive rosé of pinot noir from the Loire (I’m lookin’ at you, Pascal Jolivet, and I ADORE your rosé), there’s fruit-forward rosé from the Savoie, and the list goes on and on. The Basque Macaye Ossau Iraty sheep’s milk cheese that Molly suggested is delicious but … it got into a major fight with the 2018 Cháteau Pesquié Rosé from Ventoux in the Rhône Valley ($16). The wine was soft and very fruit-forward and delicious and the cheese is pungent, with a bit of pungent sweetness (nuts, figs) and it overwhelmed the wine. Balls.
Now, the 2018 Pascal Jolivet Rosé of pinot noir ($20) was great with the Comté and with the Tomme de Grand Mère goat cheese. But, again – not a win with the Basque cheese. But I love learning these things!
On to 2013 Château de la Font du Loup Châteauneuf du Pape ($40)! Holy mother of aromatics, this wine! Mona and I geeked out on the aromas along for, like, 10 minutes, before we even took a sip. It’s 65 percent Grenache, 20 percent Mourvedre, 15 percent Syrah. Here we go: stewed prunes, dark cherry, mocha, cardamom, campfire, cranberry sauce – not the canned kind – rose petals, iodine, dried blueberries, pencil shavings, saline and thunder. Yep, thunder. God, this wine is extraordinary. Like a deep ruby pool daring you to dive in.d
So we tried it with Saint Nectaire, a semi-soft washed-rind cow’s milk cheese from Auvergne that Molly recommended. Yassss! In the Tomme family of cheeses, it is earthy and a little briny and pungent and it totally stood up to this sexy brute of a wine and we drank the whole bottle of wine and wanted more!
And speaking of more, check out these posts from my French Winophiles friends. I can’t wait to see who paired what cheese with which wine. And if you want even MORE, join us on Twitter, on Saturday, June 15 at 10 a.m. CST and use #winophiles – we’re going hard on French wine and cheese. Santé!
- Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla offers us “Pretty in Pink: Raclette de Savoie Polenta, Salmon, & Le Cocagne Gris Rosé”
- Lynn of Savor The Harvest brings us “Cheese and Loire Wine Pairing with Les Vignerons du Vendômois #winophiles”
- Pinny over Chinese Food And Wine Pairings bids “Je t’aime to a Bordeaux, a Loire Valley Rosé and an assortment of French Cheese #Winophiles”
- Robin of Crushed Grape Chronicles gives us A Loire rosé, a Bordeaux from Pommerol and…..cheese #winophiles
- Wendy of A Day In The Life On A Farm shares Life’s Simple Pleasures; Onion Cheese Soup and a Glass of Rosé
- Jane of Always Ravenous shares Summer Inspired French Cheese and Wine Pairings
- David of Cooking Chat offer tips for Picking Cheese to Serve with French Wine
- Jeff of FoodWineClick says we should Do as the French: Serve The Cheese After the Meal”
- Liz of What’s In That Bottle? says Smile – C’est Fromage!
- Susannah of Avvinare brings us Vin Jaune and Comte-A Perfect Combination
- Cathie of Side Hustle Wino presents Wine and Cheese, the Heart and Soul of France
- Gwendolyn the Wine Predator asks “Did Someone Say French Wine and Cheese?
- Penny of Adventures of a Carry-on pairs Alsace Riesling and Goat Cheese, A Match Made in Heaven
- Linda of My Full Wine Glass suggests we “Try White Bordeaux and Goat Cheese Appetizer When Relaxing Outdoors
- Deanna of Asian Test Kitchen delivers 3 French Cheese & Beverage Pairings
- Cindy of Grape Experiences serves up Wines from Alsace and Cheeses for Pairing
- Martin at ENOFYLZ Wine Blog, I’m pairing French Grilled Cheese and Drappier Rose de Saignee Champagne #winophile