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Posts Filed Under The ‘Champagne and Cheese’ Category

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

On the Bubble

Champagnes and sparkling wines have advantages over still wines in pairing with cheeses – their effervescence. The juice of hundreds of different varietals can go into crafting sparkling wines but true Champagnes are limited to three: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Each of these is planted in roughly the same amounts in the Champagne region. For sparkling wines produced outside that area just about every other grape known to man has had a go at sparkling wine production. I enjoy a good Cava every now and then, a chilled glass of Prosecco can be spectacular, but the sparkling wines that are made with Chardonnay and/or Pinot Noir (maybe with a little Pinot Meunier mixed in) are my favorites. There are some spectacular sparkling wines made with these varietals that rival some of the better known Champagnes, and they are usually available at a much lower price.

Champagnes (and their facsimiles) are noted by their acidity, which helps carry the sweetness across the palate. The effervescence, the acidity and the fruity qualities of these wines makes them especially refreshing. If it were left up to those qualities alone, the ideal cheese partners would be easier to predict – cheeses that had a balancing level of salt, a harmonious level of acidity, and textures that can meld with these sparklers. As with any wine, the aromatics ultimately come into play. For example, the Chardonnay-dominant Champagnes fare better with cheeses that pair best with still wines made from that varietal. This may sound like a given yet there are some people that will forego a glass of Chardonnay but will gladly accept a Blanc de Blanc made solely from this grape. The other major player in Champagne is Pinot Noir – a varietal everyone seems to enjoy. The Champagnes and sparkling wines made primarily with this varietal will be a little different than those made primarily or solely with Chardonnay. The most recognizable difference is in the aroma.

The Champagnes and sparkling wines that are 100% Chardonnay favor cheeses such as the especially pungent Beermat (a.k.a. Aarauer Bierdeckel) and Försterkäse (a.k.a. Bergfichte), the more modest Langres (from Champagne country itself) and Pont l’Evêque. The ones that are mostly Pinot Noir pair better with some related but more aged cheeses such as Beaufort, Gruyère, Hoch Ybrig, Val Bagner and Sbrinz. The bubblies that are blended with both varietals successfully pair with more cheese types, most of the above as well as Tomme de Savoie, Vacherin Fribourgeois, Terraluna and Brazos Cheddar. The less-Brut styles, the ones with a little extra residual sugar, will pair very well with the broadest range of cheese types.

You might try pouring a little Blanc de Blanc into the crater on top of a Langres and allow the Champagne to seep into the interior of the cheese. This is more than mere theatrics; it softens the texture of the paste making the cheese that much more delectable. Keep in mind that it is the Chardonnay-dominant Champagnes that work best with Langres .

Max McCalman

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

The “Science” of Matchmaking Cheese and Wine

“Pleasure” is one of the first words that come to mind when we think of these two: cheese and wine, or “enjoyment.” The partnerships of cheese and wine have been around for centuries, most of them pleasurable relationships. So when we have cheese and wine (or cheese with any beverage) we are usually not thinking about how or why they mate. We are simply enjoying the wine and cheese: we have a sip of wine then we have a nibble of cheese, then wine, then cheese, etc., without fully contemplating the matching: the balancing and complementary relationships between the cheese and wine. Not to overanalyze it, but sometimes the residue leaves an “off” impression – it seems that some sort of conflict may have occurred. We enjoy a wine type and we enjoy a style of cheese, they may even be produced in the same region, yet they are not getting along, so to speak. I am afraid that most people blame the cheese when those mismatches occur.

Cheese has been so badly maligned for so long; cheese has suffered enough!

It is like a great guy and a great gal; the two may not be meant for each other.

“Pairing” seems to be all the rage these days. More and more restaurants have flights of cheese and wine (or craft beer, or Scotch, etc.) and when people are entertaining guests they often obsess about finding the ideal matches. This is probably one reason why my second book – Cheese, a Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Best – won a James Beard award, its wine pairings included with each cheese.

There are fundamental principles of pairing foods and beverages that can be applied to pairing cheese and wine. When those principles are considered to their fullest, those pairings often yield some “marriages-made-in-heaven,” or perfect pairings. There is a little science to it. One bit of science may be that when the cheese and wine (or other beverage) pair well aesthetically there may be other neurological benefits derived from careful matchmaking, so there may be some nutritional benefits too.

These pairing principles are applied when we taste cheeses and wines in our Matchmaking class. The class is a little academic but it makes for a thoroughly enjoyable experience; call it “infotainment.”

Max McCalman

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Champagne, Cheese and Karite

Originally posted at ModernSalon.com

Reprinted with permission

wcDSC 1548 Champagne, Cheese and KariteThe fine team at Rene Furterer offered a “Champagne and Cheese Master Class” to key editors last week offering a sneak peek at the new Kerite hair care line: Kerite Intense Nourishing Oil, Kerite Intense Nourishing Shampoo and Kerite Intense Nourishing Mask.

“This is a celebration of French luxury,” said René Furterer product manager Aubrey Scott who chatted with me after the event. “We wanted to introduce these new products in the luxurious setting they deserve.”

The tasting, held at the renowned Artisanal Cheese Center in New York City, was the ultimate indulgence. The beautiful tables featured 4 glasses of Fine French Champagne, and a selection of 7 special fine French cheeses from a Petite Mothais cheese made from goat’s milk to a Comté made from cow’s milk. Led by Champagne expert Cathleen Burke Visscher and Artisanal Cheese Center maître fromager Max McCalman, the class covered details such as the creation and bottling of Champagne, the difference between a Blanc de Blanc non-vintage and a Brut vintage, what gave each cheese its distinctive flavor and the fine points of Champagne and cheese pairings. At the heart of each table were the three products serving as center pieces.

wcDSC 1582 Champagne, Cheese and Karite

Although I left a little “buzzed” from the champagne, I just had to check out the products. It was a beautiful and luxurious experience as I cleansed and conditioned my hair. Launching in November, 2011, these products are something for every salon professional to look forward to!

By Maggie Mulhern

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Cheese on the Seven Seas

np5003  Cheese on the Seven Seas

One of our customers is the award-winning luxury cruise line Radisson/Seven Seas. Among their more popular cruises are the “Spotlight on Food and Wine” packages. With superior quality food and beverage on their ships, the company has been rated at the top in the industry. So, of course, to find the best cheese they come to Artisanal.

The passengers on these cruises are drawn to them in large part because they are truly interested in fine food and wine and want to learn more about the wonderful world of gastronomy. The acclaimed cooking school Cordon Bleu has a big presence on this line in the Signatures restaurants and in classes for the passengers. Guest chefs, wine makers, and other experts present lectures, tastings, and cooking demos during the cruises.

Again this year, I had the recent pleasure of presenting a couple of seminars on the Mariner. For the first session, a Cheese and Wine 101 class, we prepared plates of six cheeses to be paired with a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir from Hawley wines in Sonoma. Expecting a good turnout for the class of around 80 passengers the service crew set out 100 plates of cheeses just to make sure. Many of the passengers arrived early for the seminar but at the appointed hour the guests just kept on coming! Orders went back to the galley requesting more cheese! Orders went also to the desktop publisher on board to quickly print more tasting sheets. The sommeliers uncorked more bottles of wine. I began the discussion of the basic principles of pairing cheeses with wines and gave short descriptions of each of the cheeses we would be sampling. John Hawley, the proprietor and wine maker of Hawley wines introduced his wines and we then began the actual tasting.

Nearly 150 people, almost one fourth of the passengers on board, sat down to the Cheese and Wine seminar in the main dining room — The Compass Rose! Other programs competing for guests attention at the same time included a lecture on gemstones and one on bridge, a fitness class on tightening and toning the lower body, shuffleboard or golf chipping on deck 12, checkers on the garden promenade on deck 6, the Carita Spa on 7, and the swimming pool on deck 11!

np5003 1  Cheese on the Seven Seas

The cheeses we tasted, chosen to illustrate the synergies between cheeses and two different wine types, were: Garrotxa: goat’s milk from Spain, Amarelo da Beira Baixa — sheep and goat’s milk from Portugal, Mahón — cow’s milk from Menorca, Vacherin Fribourgeois — cow’s milk from Switzerland, Gouda (4 y.o.) — cow’s milk from Holland, and Crater Lake Blue — cow’s milk from Rogue River Creamery in Oregon. Each participant was given a score sheet to assess the relationship each cheese had with each wine.

Afterwards, with other programs starting around the ship and the dining room crew anxious to reset the room for lunch service, several of the guests came up with more specific questions about cheese and about cheese and wine pairing. From that point on the remainder of my time on board the Mariner seemed to be an endless flow of cheese talk. We had hoped to have a little extra cheese for the cheese boards in the dining rooms that evening, but it was pretty much all gone.

Two days later, the second seminar on cheese focused on cheese making methods, the history of cheese, and the nutritional values of cheese, and coincidentally, on the relationship of 6 different cheeses to 2 different wines — a Sauvignon Blanc from Napa and a Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles, California. The cheeses were: Majorero — goat’s milk from the Canaries (I thought a maritime cheese would work well on board the Mariner sailing in the Pacific), Beyos — cow’s milk from Spain, Cheshire — cow’s milk from England (with a marine tang), Serena — sheep milk from western Spain, Appenzeller — cow’s milk from eastern Switzerland, and Harbourne Blue — goat’s milk from England.

This seminar was scheduled for later in the day when the weather was more likely to draw passengers to the pool. And coinciding with cheese time we had a Blackjack tournament in the casino, the Incredibles on the big screen, bridge, shuffleboard, crafts, needlepoint, a harp seminar, tea time with a view, and Pilates. So naturally, a thinner attendance was predicted, but again, to our surprise, we had nearly 140 people!

The Executive Chef, Quinn McMahon, asked if I would do a little Cheese 101 seminar for the Food and Beverage crew late that night after most of the passengers had retired. Tired as they had to have been, we again enjoyed a huge turnout of some particularly curious Chefs, Sommeliers, and other dining room staff!

It was amazing to see the response that the cheese seminars had. I thought to myself upon debarkation “next time we’ll need more cheese!”

Food and Wine Magazine ran an article on one of those Spotlight cruises on the same Mariner ship in the July issue last year entitled “Boat Camp”. Written by Abe Opincar and enhanced by the photography of Lucy Schaeffer, “Boat Camp” is available in our site’s In the News section.

Max McCalman

Dean of Curriculum and Maître Fromager