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Posts Filed Under The ‘Chabichou du Poitou’ Category

Friday, April 6th, 2012

Sauvignon Blanc, a.k.a. “Spring in a Glass”

Sauvignon Blanc in most of its expressions is a varietal I associate with warm weather more than any other. Refreshing, with citrus fruit aromas and flavors, most Sauvignon Blancs are inherently delightful paired with warm-weather cheeses, mostly the lighter styles. The grape grows in so many regions that you might expect that it can grow successfully anywhere. In fact, this varietal is particular, not only with where it is grown but also with which cheeses it is paired. When a Sauvignon Blanc finds a good match with a cheese it is invariably a very good match. Sauvignon Blanc pulls no punches. If a little Sémillon and/or Moscadelle is thrown in (as in white Bordeaux and some of the lovely whites of Napa valley) this changes the lineup of cheese partners somewhat, as does oak barrel fermentation (as in the Fumé Blancs).

The aesthetic relationships Sauvignon Blanc enjoys with cheeses are fairly easy to pick out: the balance of fruity and savory, the harmony of acids, and the overall size of flavors. The aromatic synergies between Sauvignon Blanc and different cheese styles may be a little less obvious, though at times I am reminded of lemon meringue pie. Technically, the acidity associated with the grape has a distinctive way of cutting though the butterfats in many cheeses.

Sauvignon Blanc seems to be so self-assured that you would think you can throw any old cheese its way and the wine will not suffer. This is precisely one reason why the disappointments can arise: the varietal usually yields wines that are not considered soft, wines that are perhaps a little less malleable with “bossy” cheeses. Other white wines such as those made with the Chardonnay grape have a relatively round mouth-feel; they are usually a little less acid and are more “forgiving” of demanding cheese partners. This is not to say that some Sauvignon Blancs cannot stand up to assertively flavored cheeses; they just do not occur as frequently. Some of the stronger cheeses can flatten a lovely Sauvignon Blanc down to insignificance.

This is why it is important to be careful with Sauvignon Blanc and cheese pairings. The go-to species of cheeses is goat, with the sheep cheeses following close behind. Many of the goat milk cheeses will start to come into their primes a little later in the spring. The mixed milk cheeses always seem to have an advantage with wine pairings, such as the Nettle Meadow Kunik, which is delightful on its own, even nicer with a cool glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Some of the cow cheeses in the cheddar family marry well (largely to the harmony of the acids with this grape) and some of the wash-rind or aged Alpine styles can pair well too, if the Sauvignon Blanc has sufficient “fruit.”

Some of my current favorite Sauvignon Blanc cheese partners include: Pecorino Sardo DOP, Ossau Iraty, Pawlett, Brazos Cheddar, Cantalet, Humboldt Fog, Fladä, Windsordale, Försterkäse (a.k.a. Bergfichte), Langres, Le Moulis, Sbrinz, Beermat, Comté, Appenzeller, Prattigauer, and Mousseron Jurassien. These cheeses are all at peak right now and delicious with Sauvignon Blanc. We will see a new crop of fresh goat milk cheeses coming in to fine form soon, again, always great with this varietal.

Max McCalman

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

National Goat Cheese Month

logs National Goat Cheese Month
August is goat cheese month for a couple of reasons. Most goat cheeses are at their peaks when they are on the young side. If it is a relatively aged goat cheese (say around four months of age) the milk would have been drawn when the animals had some of the fresh vegetation that April brings, or if it is a younger cheese there should be a good diversity of plants available in July or August. Many dairy goats have wild berries and fresh herbs in their summer diets. The more food choices the animals have, the more flavorful the milk will be, which translates to a better cheese.

pc 10140 National Goat Cheese Month
August, being one of the hottest months of the year, is a time when our cheese choices are for the lighter varieties, such as those younger goat cheeses. When the temperature creeps up into the nineties or higher we might skip the blues, the big-flavored or the stinky cheeses and choose those lighter creamier goat cheeses such as the Laurier instead. Even though most goat cheeses are still available in fine form later in the year, they are especially favored in August.

imgname  a good new zealand sauvignon blanc   50226711  flickr 3333482383 National Goat Cheese Month
Our choices of wines or beers veer toward the lighter styles in August too. The Sauvignon Blancs (a varietal whose favorite cheeses are produced with goat milk) or the young Chardonnays that are fermented in stainless steel instead of oak, the floral Viogners and dry Albariños or Chenin Blancs; all these white wines and many others pair exceptionally well with the goat milk cheeses. These cheeses also blend in beautifully with our cool pilsners, wheat beers, and our summer ales.

When you follow the logic of the CheeseClockâ„¢ pairing tool this is precisely what is indicated, the lighter cheeses such as the younger milder goat cheeses pair best with the lighter wines and beers.

Max McCalman