Our most popular class here at the Artisanal Cheese Center is Cheese & Wine 101. As I like to point out in the beginning of one of these seminars is the first thing that helps make cheese and wine pairings succeed is hunger and thirst. No other food satisfies nearly as well as a little bit of cheese. And if you are not so certain about the water quality, the wine (in moderation) is a safer beverage that can play alongside cheeses in spectacular ways.
When designing these classes we present a range of cheese types, from mild to strong. Using different milk types (goat, sheep, cow and mixed) helps to illustrate the relationships that cheeses have with different wines. Using cheeses with different textures, rind-types and provenances highlights other complementing relationships with various wines.
We use different wine types, from lighter to bigger wines; with at least one white wine, at least one red wine, possibly one rosÃ©, for a total of three different wines. Wines that are made with different varietals (grapes) exhibit distinguishing components of cheese and wine synergies: balance, harmony, contrast, aromatics, etc. If each of the wines are made primarily with one type of grape this usually provides a clue as to what kinds of cheeses will work with a different wine produced from the same varietal.
As it is recommended on our CheeseClock it usually follows that the milder cheeses pair better with the milder wines, while the stronger cheeses usually demand the heavier wines. This is a big part of what this session illuminates. Fundamentally it is about the progression of cheeses â€“ mild to strong. It just so happens that the corresponding wine partners to that progression of the cheeses is also milder to stronger.
Too often the recommendations for successful cheese and wine pairings fall back on the geographic indicators â€“ as though cheese making and wine making were that simple! There is far more that goes into the production of these two than where they were made. The notion that shared terroir determines the best cheese and wine marriages is certainly an idea to explore and it can provide a thematic element to your cheese and wine experiences. Some of the most successful pairings that I have enjoyed have been those that are offered by cheeses and wines that are produced on opposite sides of the planet.
There is quite a lot that goes into designing a Cheese & Wine 101 class here. Along with showing all these pairing parameters by tasting several cheese types with different wine types, we also have the execution of these sessions. Fortunately we have quite a lot of practice. The more we conduct this seminar, the more we are convinced that cheeses and wines generally work pretty well together, more often than not.