Last month’s installment of “The Art of Wine & Food” featured one of my favorite topics: wine and cheese! Dubbed an “Homage to Fromage” we focused on wine and cheese pairings perfect for entertaining.
In addition to our three Wine & Cheese Pairing Principles, I also like to follow these three Glamorous Guidelines when entertaining guests at home: 1.) always greet your guests with a sparkling wine, 2.) introduce your guests to a wine that’s a little off the beaten path and/or 3.) treat your guests to a decadent dessert wine.
To me, nothing says “festive” like a glass of bubbly and what better way to greet friends and welcome them into your home? Whether it’s Champagne, Prosecco or Cava, there’s just something about the feel of a flute in your hand and bubbles tickling your nose that are simply smile-inducing. This month we featured the Domaine Carneros Cuvee Brut, 2008, a sparkling wine from California which, at $28 a bottle, proves you don’t have to break the bank with a French Champagne to get your bubbly fix! Located in California, Domaine Carneros actually does have ties to France’s Champagne region: it’s parent company is Champagne Taittinger, one of the most well-known Champagne Houses in the world. Claude Taittinger recognized California’s potential to produce world class sparkling wine and found the perfect place in Carneros. He also hand-selected President and Winemaker, Eileen Crane, and with over thirty years of experience making sparkling wine in the US, she is known today as America’s Doyenne of Sparkling Wine.
Our first Wine & Cheese Pairing Principle of the evening was: “Pair Sparkling Wines with Cheese.” Most people automatically think red wine when pairing wine with cheese but sparkling wines pair deliciously well with many cheeses, especially decadent, creamy ones. The acidity and bubbles of the sparkling wine create a beautiful contrast of texture and also cleanse and refresh the palate after each delicious bite of the cheese. To demonstrate this theory, we enjoyed a Triple-Creme Brie paired with the Domaine Carneros Brut, a fruity blend of 48% Pinot Noir, 41% Chardonnay and 1% Pinot Blanc. In addition to the contrasting textures, the fruitiness and creaminess of the sparkler actually enhanced the saltiness and creaminess of the Brie. What’s not to love about that?
When entertaining at home, I also like to introduce guests to a new wine or one I suspect they haven’t tried before. To demonstrate my point, we served the Clos de Nouys Vouvray Sec, 2009, a wine made from 100% Chenin Blanc done in a “sec” or dry style. The delicious Chenin Blanc grape is indigenous to France and has thrived in the Loire Valley since the 9th century. It was first believed to have been cultivated at the Abbey of Glanfeuil in Anjou. It was transported in 1445 to the Squire of Chenonceau at Mount Chenin where the grape derived its name. Clos de Nouys is a 25 acre estate located in the Vouvray appellation of the Loire and consists of vines averaging 35 years old. This is one of the oldest wine-making estates in the AOC area: its wines were served on the Normandie transatlantic liner in 1936 and its vineyards were listed among the best sites on 1907 geological maps.
Wine & Cheese Pairing Principle #2 of our evening was “Pair Wine and Cheese with Similar Flavors.” Chenin Blanc is known for its high levels of acidity and minerality so in keeping with our principle I paired the Clos de Nouys Vouvray Sec with a tangy, fresh goat cheese. The bright acidity in the wine mirrored the acidity and tangy flavors in the goat cheese creating a delicious synergy.
My third personal entertaining guideline is perhaps my favorite: treat your guests to a dessert wine! When entertaining at home many people forget about dessert wines. They may think it’s “wrong” or even “uncool” to like sweet wine of any kind which couldn’t be further from the truth! To demonstrate this paring, we sampled the Fonseca Ruby Port, NV a tasty introductory level Port with fruity notes of cherries and black currants. Port is actually a fortified wine produced exclusively in the Douro Valley in northern Portugal using five main grapes: Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cao, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Francesca and Touriga Nacional. As the still wine is fermenting, a neutral grape spirit (aguardente) is added to prematurely halt the fermentation process which leaves residual sugar in the wine and boosts alcohol content.
In order to demonstrate Wine & Cheese Pairing Principle #3: “Pair Cheese with Dessert Wine” we sampled a classic pairing: Port & Stilton. The reason this pairing works so well is because the sweetness of a dessert wine enhances the saltiness of the cheese which creates a mouth-watering synergy even though the two things individually have somewhat opposite flavors. If you are a fan of Kettle Corn, popcorn that has both salty and sweet flavors, you understand how the combination of salty and sweet can be so incredibly delicious!
A big thank you to Republic National Distributing Company for sponsoring our “Homage to Fromage” at the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale. All wines are available through The Wine Atelier. Hope you can join us later this month for “Sultry Summer Sippers” featuring wines that are perfect for enjoying during the Summer months. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit www.moafl.org or call Gail Vilone at 954.262.0249. Hope to see you there!