Posts Filed Under The ‘Hoja Santa’ Category

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Sangiovese, Nice and Easy

Sangiovese is a varietal we often overlook; it could be partly because there were many inferior wines produced from this grape in the past, or because it is often blended with other high-pedigree varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, diluting its own characteristics. It has been blended with other varietals to yield some delicious wines. However part of the appeal of Sangiovese is its easy-drinking character, its graceful acceptance of other varietals in the mix, and its harmony with many foods, cheeses included.

Some Sangiovese successes have been noted recently in Napa yet the grape does not seem to grow quite as successfully much of anywhere else outside Tuscany, so it may also suffer from a lack of recognition on the worldwide stage. We are offering Sangiovese wines in more classes here at the Artisanal Cheese Center, not only the classes focused on Italian cheeses and wines, but in other classes too. This will allow us to pair our cheeses produced outside Italy with several Sangiovese wines. As the weather warms up, Sangiovese is sounding rather appealing, like a nice bottle for a picnic, accompanied by a little cheese and a crusty baguette.

Fortunately, some of the many cheeses that happen to pair well with Sangiovese make good picnic cheeses: goat, sheep, cow and mixed milk cheeses; from the lighter styles all the way up to and including some blues. These are some cheeses we have enjoyed with this varietal recently:

Abbaye de Belloc, Barely Buzzed, Cantalet, Cremont, Garrotxa, Gorgonzola Piccante, 4 y.o. Gouda, Gruyère, Hittisau, Hoja Santa, Ibores, Manchego, Le Moulis, Pecorino Foglie di Noce, Pecorino Sardo, Roncal, Roquefort, Scharfe Maxx, Terraluna, and Vacherin Fribourgeois.

Considering how easy Sangiovese is on the pocket book you may want to add an extra wedge of cheese to your picnic basket. There is a good chance that it will make a nice match.

Max McCalman

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

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Pairing Wheat Beers and Cheese

Originally posted at Brewingsomefun.com

10454 Pairing Wheat Beers and Cheese

If wheat beer is not your cup of tea (or not your pint of beer) you might consider trying one with a wide selection of cheeses. I admit that it was not my favorite style of beer either, that is until I had one recently with an array of cheeses. The wheat beer played nice with every cheese on my plate: the Hoja Santa, the Roomano, and the Stilton, and especially well with the Nettle Meadow Kunik, the Terraluna, the Abbaye de Tamié (referenced below) and the Scharfe Maxx.

I recently wrote about a cheese that “screams” beer, that lovely Abbaye de Tamié, a cheese that paired well with each and every kind of beer that I had before me. I would not say that the Abbaye de Tamié is an extreme cheese whatsoever, though it does have quite a lot of character. This cheese may not be for everyone on its own. The same applies for the wheat beers: maybe not for everyone but it is a beer that screams “cheese.”

This is one of the greatest things about pairing beers with cheeses: a cheese that you might not normally choose might actually taste great with the right beer partner, or vice versa. Along with delivering some delightful mixes these pairings can open up new appreciations for second-choice (not second class) cheeses or beers, ones that you would typically avoid.

Part of the key to successful pairings of cheese with the wheat beers is that those beers tend to be especially effervescent, always a plus for cheese partners. The underlying silky textures of wheat beers make smooth platforms for toothsome cheeses.

The wheat beers also tend to be lighter flavored; they can meld into cheeses a little more gracefully. These beers are less bitter than almost all ales. The bitter may be an attractive flavor quality for some beer lovers but it can also present special challenges to cheese partners.

Try a wheat beer wit your next cheese plate, and skip the lemon peel.

Max McCalman