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Posts Filed Under The ‘Pairing’ Category

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

October Fest at Epcot

maxepcot 1 e1381258741746 October Fest at Epcot

Epcot is celebrating its eighteenth annual Food & Wine Festival this year and we are proud to have been a part of this gourmet celebration since 1998. Each year we have presented seminars every weekend, each session highlighting the cheeses and wines of a country: France, Italy, Spain and the United States. A couple of years ago we added a few other themes to the Saturday morning events so that we could include other countries known less for their wines but held in high regard for cheese, such as Switzerland, England, Holland and others. We also wanted to expand the options so that guests would keep coming back for more.

We have long witnessed the growing popularity of cheese and wine in the United States, and more recently, the fast-growing popularity of craft beers. We debated the idea of switching one of the seven Saturday sessions from wine and cheese to beer and cheese. This year we finally made the leap and judging from the way last weekend’s session was received, the craft beer week will be around for quite awhile. And if it was going to be our first beer week, why not make it in October, especially if it’s early October in central Florida, temperatures outside reaching the mid-80’s?

As is often the case, the beers paired very well with all the cheeses. This is usually the case with wines as well but a good beer is almost a “given” when paired with a good cheese.

Why so few mismatches with beer?

There are a couple reasons why beers rarely miss with cheese. Most beers are a little less acid than most wines; this gives beers better pH harmony with cheeses. Cheeses are also a little acid, but not nearly as acid as most wines. Beers also lack the astringency that red wines possess – the tannin factor that can disrupt what might have been a good match with a cheese. Beers also have their effervescence that refreshes the palate when cheese is in the mix. Those bubbles lift up the butterfats, swirl them around, and the gentle acidity breaks them down delightfully.

All this is not to discount the “size” consideration, as in the overall flavor profile of a cheese or beer. The lighter flavored cheeses paired better with the lighter beer, while the bigger flavored cheeses paired better with the bigger beer.

Like the CheeseClock™ indicates, the bigger the cheese, the bigger the beer should be.

- Max McCalman

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Last, But Not Least

10589 Last, But Not Least

Zamorano holds the distinction of being the last cheese in our inventory’s alphabet, for what that may be worth. A name that begins with “z” can be lost, as in a large graduation ceremony. Some cheeses are worth the wait, and Zamorano is certainly one of those. I have had a special fondness for this cheese ever since I first tasted it back in the mid-nineties. From my description in Cheese, a Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Best: “This is a noble, ancient, and majestic cheese…a good Zamorano [which is exactly what we have in our caves right now] has the same dignified bearing as Beaufort or Parmesan.”

Zamorano is at its peak this time of year, and will remain so for the next few months. The ones we have now have had sufficient aging but not too much. Even with the extra aging it is still a marvelous cheese, so long as it is one crafted from uncompromised milk. The Zamorano fits into Autumn very nicely, not only because it is at peak but also because it pairs so well with the wines of the season: red Burgundies and American Pinot Noirs, Ribera del Dueros, Alsatian Rieslings, Periquitas, Moulin-à-Vents, as well as Oloroso. Zamorano also pairs well with lighter white wines such as: Albariños and Pouilly-Fumés. Having recently noted how well a similarly-made cheese (Roncal) paired with hard ciders, you can expect there will be some synergies there as well.

Zamorano needs no wine partner; this cheese holds up just fine on its own. I recall thinking how “proud” it was. Please excuse the anthropomorphosis here but the recollection was of a time when another cheese had fallen over onto a wedge of Zamorano. A colleague asked if this might be a problem – that the cheeses were touching. This became a line I would share with my fellow fromagers: the cheeses are touching. I informed the concerned colleague that the Zamorano was “proud” and did not particularly care if another cheese needed its support.

I gave Zamorano a score of “90” in Cheese, a Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Best – not sure what I was thinking. Maybe it was because it was the last cheese in the book, kind of like being at the end of a graduation ceremony.

- Max McCalman

Monday, September 16th, 2013

A Chef’s Cheese

10303 Large e1379367159151 A Chef’s Cheese

Kirkham’s Lancashire is a cheese I have known and loved for many years. I recall sharing it with my friend David Pasternak back in the day. In case you do not know David, he is one of the owners and the Executive Chef of Esca restaurant here in New York. He would come into my cheese “office” daily when we worked together at Picholine and ask what I would recommend. I had already fallen in love with Kirkham’s by then so I wanted to see if he felt the same. It was (as it usually is) in fine form, so David would ask for it frequently, from that day on rarely bothering to ask what I would recommend.

A big part of my job there was to make wine recommendations for cheeses, and vice versa. The Lancashire showed very well with many wine types, both reds and whites. As Pinot Noir was (and still is) a favorite wine, an expression of which many parties would be enjoying when the cheese trolley pulled up, it was pleasing to see how well this varietal paired with this cheese. And so it went with many other reds: Syrah, Barbera, Tempranillo, Gamay, Amarone, Merlot, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Primitivo, even the occasional Cabernet Sauvignon. And of course the white wines paired well too: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Albariño, Sémillon, the occasional Chardonnay, and Champagne. My British friends would say “Give me a pint of ale.”

So what gives this great British traditional such synergy with all these wines and ales?

It mostly comes down to balance. This is a quality Kirkham’s Lancashire possesses. By this I mean that it is not too salty, yet salty enough; not too sour, but acid enough; with a scant trace of bitterness; sweet fresh milk flavor; as well as a pleasing buttery mouthfeel. Pour a little astringent red wine on top and the cheese is able to soften the edges, or a little white wine and the fruit in the wine springs forth.

You have to take care of your Lancashire however. Make sure it is not left out for hours on end; it can dry out, which takes away from the lovely texture. And when you rewrap it, it helps to give your leftover Lancashire its own little microcosm. It is a raw milk cheese so when the pairings succeed they can be brilliant, though when they miss, they can miss badly. It is best to try this “chef’s cheese” alone first, the way David Pasternak always did. Get to know it on its own terms. A keen palate will recognize this cheese as one of the culinary world’s greatest masterpieces.

- Max McCalman

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Who Says Red Wines Don’t Pair Well with Cheeses?

13931 Large e1376413225258 Who Says Red Wines Don’t Pair Well with Cheeses?

There was a time when most people seemed to insist on red wines with cheeses, or ports. Then there was a flip-flop and many people insisted that white wines were the only ones appropriate for cheeses. I confess that I may have helped contribute to that trend. I have found many more great matches with whites than with reds, yet there are many red wine pairing standouts.

At last week’s Cheese & Wine 101 the reds beat the whites hands down. The Alsatian Riesling scored well (as Rieslings usually do) but the Vacqueyras in which Grenache was the driver succeeded nicely with each of the cheeses: goat, sheep and cow; soft to hard. The Primitivo scored a couple +2’s: with Le Moulis (vache) and with the aged Gouda. This wine was a bit much for the lovely little Rove des Garrigues but everything else paired well, which is no surprise.

I mentioned how well the Riesling paired (except with the Manchego [not bad but not very good either] and with the Echo Mountain [ditto]) yet it scored a couple +2’s as well: with the Roves des Garrigues and with the Taleggio. You can count on Rieslings of any stripe to flatter the wash rind cow cheeses, as well as most of their goat and sheep expressions.

The big disappointment of the evening was the Verdejo—the Rueda. Lovely wine to begin but it faded fast. Excellent on its own and with the Roves des Garrigues, nice with the aged Manchego, then it was headed for the showers.

Overall scores: Reds 16 Whites 10.

Of course this was only seven cheeses and the selections, though diverse, just happened to be selective partners for these four wines, each in their own ways. Interesting to note: none of the matches was bad; which serves as a reminder: in more cases than not, cheeses and wines do pair well with each other.

Go Reds!

- Max McCalman

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Beverage Pairings

beverage pairings e1374519283619 Beverage Pairings

On our home page tool bar you will find “Beverage Pairings” under the “Entertaining” dropdown. A couple of words about this:

Each cheese on our website is assigned a varietal, just one. However there are often many wine types that pair successfully with a particular cheese. Some cheeses seem to pair well with any wine we throw their way. Isn’t there a name for those types of cheeses? Lush cheeses?

Regardless, one varietal is given – a varietal we agree is a successful match with the cheese in question. We are in the process of adding other varietals in the full description of each cheese so you can check each for additional wine matches.

Pairing cheese and wine is a little subjective yet there are some principles of successful food and beverage pairings that help create great matches. One of the fundamental principles of these success stories is simple: the bigger flavored cheeses pair more successfully with the bigger flavored wines. This is what the CheeseClock™ pairing tool is all about. Conversely, lighter cheeses are generally more successful with lighter wines.

Sometimes it seems that some of the strongest cheeses meld better with the lightest of wines, like a 180º counterweight. Some of the strongest cheeses seem to butt heads with the bolder wines. When this happens the cheese invariable comes out on top. In more cases than not, cheeses and wines do pair well together. The successes arise far more often than the misses. And again, there is a level of subjectivity in this.

So watch for additional wine pairing recommendations to appear in our updated cheese descriptions. You will find entries for beers and other beverages too.

- Max McCalman

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

German Beer Day

1 300x224 German Beer Day

Did you forget that yesterday was German Beer Day? You may have thought the beer celebrations only take place in October. Not according to our German beer expert Freddy Bohn. According to Freddy there is a reason to celebrate the superior beers of Germany every single day of the year, though there is this one day in particular – April 23rd – that is marked on the calendar recognizing this near-perfect beverage, especially by German brewers. It was this day, exactly 497 years ago, that the Reinheitsgebot was implemented. Perhaps you have already read the beer chapter in my new book, Mastering Cheese, which delves into its history. You can hear Mr. Bohn explain the significance of this law while we enjoy a generous helping of his country’s finest at this Sunday’s German Beer class.

Along with hearing him speak about the Reinheitsgebot while enjoying distinguished Biere, we will also get to understand their superior pairing capacities with great cheeses. Speaking of cheese, did you know that Germany produces more cheese than France? Their output is second only to the United States.

- Max McCalman

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Have Cheese, Will Travel

Viva Italia 300x227 Have Cheese, Will Travel

I was a guest speaker at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival last weekend; the theme was “Italian Cheeses and Wines.” Ever since I made my first presentation there back in 1998 the cheese sessions have been some of the most popular seminars of the festival, always hosted by the inimitable Pam Smith.

It is no surprise these cheese seminars are so popular; it follows the dramatic trajectory of cheese appreciation in the US. We may not eat quite as much cheese as the Italians but we are catching up rapidly. Speaking of formaggi, we have some drop-dead gorgeous cheeses from Italy at this time, each of them screamin’ to be eaten. Along with the cheeses we presented last weekend at Epcot we have some that we see less frequently, such as a wash-rind Quadro di Bufala – a variation on the infamous Taleggio (which is also looking great now) made with cow milk. It turns out that making the cheese with Buffalo milk works especially well; the high butterfat content makes this version especially scrumptious.

Another cheese that we see rarely that is in peak form now is the Robiola Pura Capra. The Robiola family of northern Italian cheeses is vast; there are so many styles of Robioli that it is difficult to describe the group. Safe to say, they are made in northwest Italy, particularly in the Piemonte (foothills of the Italian Alps); they can be made from any combination of cow, goat, sheep or buffalo milk; they come in small formats; and they are usually consumed on the young side. Other than that, there is little else you can say that describes Robiola; different types of rinds make a huge difference in their aromas and flavors, as much as the milk choices themselves.

One of the more popular Robiolas is one made with all three (cow, sheep and goat) milks – the Robiola 3 Latti – the best of all three worlds, all blended together. Blending the milks elevates the overall flavor of the cheese, while moderating some of the qualities in any one of those milks that some people may find less pleasing. By the way, these mixed milk cheeses exhibit tremendous pairing potential with many wine types.

Last weekend at Epcot we had a Robiola 2 Latti (cow and sheep blend) that paired magnificently with a white wine of the region – Arneis. This was a bit of a surprise for me, even considering that they are made in the same region. That same cheese paired well with an Amarone from the northeast of Italy. Then, Amarone is a cheese-friendly wine most of the time.

This coming weekend we will be presenting cheeses and wines from France. A tasting of French cheeses would not be complete without Comté, another cheese looking great in our caves now. Comté is one of those more assertive cheeses that generally pairs better with white wines, the best one being an unusual varietal of the region – Savagnin. No two Comtés are the same; this is one of the great things about this magnificent cheese: each wheel is distinctive. The regulations for its production are strict, and strictly enforced. This is what differentiates them: plenty of land for the animals to graze upon, milk collected within a short distance from where the cheeses are produced and ripened, and no pasteurization equipment is permitted in the cheese-making plant – the fruitière – by law.

In case I don’t see you at Epcot this weekend maybe you can enjoy some Comté and several other lovely French cheeses here at the Center. My colleague Erin Hedley has just a few seats available in her class Saturday afternoon.

Cheese is on the move.

Max McCalman

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 27th, 2012

Valpolicella: Unusual and Versatile

I recall enjoying a Valpolicella at a northern Italian style restaurant several years ago. What is northern Italian style food, you may ask? Whether you are speaking of the cuisine of the Veneto where Valpolicella is produced, or you are speaking of the cuisine of the Piemonte, or the Val d’Aosta; whichever region: you will find a broad mix of locally produced agricultural products, cheeses and wines included.

The “king” of Italian wine varietals is Nebbiolo, the noble grape whose juice goes into the production of Barolos and Barbarescos. This “king” status for Nebbiolo (Barolo in particular) makes these wines a little pricey. For a more “every-day red,” the more affordable Chianti Classico (made from Sangiovese) makes for a familiar style of red wine – nice, though technically not “northern” Italian. Somehow I knew that the Valpolicella would make a more suitable wine for the delicious food we selected; or was that the waiter’s suggestion?

The first sip of Valpolicella may catch you off guard, especially if it is a little aged. The more aged ones such as Ripasso della Valpolicella offer more depth than the “nouveau” styles, though they are not nearly as massive as the Amarones. The lighter Valpolicelli are easy-drinking and are relatively low in alcohol. In the production of Ripasso the wine maker adds the leftover grape skins and seeds for extra maceration. This makes for a “bigger” wine, a type that can hold up to many of the more assertive cheeses.

A large part of the success of Valpolicella must be credited to the winemakers, whose blends of the grapes (Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara) shape the flavors of their wines. The blended wines often succeed as partners for cheeses, more often than the 100% varietal wines. Kind of like the “best-of-both-worlds” in cheese making: cheeses crafted from mixed milks are usually successful with a broader variety of wine types.

We found several lovely matches for a Valpolicella Ripasso recently: Formaggio Capra, Pecorino Sardo D.O.P., Fontina Val d’Aosta, Capra Ubriaco al Traminer, Ubriaco Prosecco, Piave, and Gorgonzola Piccante.

Max McCalman

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Riesling, the Sommelier’s White

Many people dismiss Riesling, some people refuse the noble grape. It reminds me of how some people feel about goat cheeses, the number one no-no I hear from people contemplating a selection of cheese. They will accept any type except for goat. Not that some people may have an aversion to Riesling the way some people have an aversion to goat cheeses, yet many people skip right over the Riesling section of a wine list and choose any other white wine instead. This aversion could be partly due to the many inferior versions produced from this grape; most of them produced in the past, thankfully.

One reason Riesling is often called a sommelier’s grape is because of its versatility with many foods, cheeses included. When few other wines make suitable matches for the different courses served to a party of four, Riesling may be the right call.

As with other varietals, it is a grape that can yield different styles, though in the case of Riesling especially, they will be recognizably “Riesling.” Rarely found in blends, it is aged in stainless steel more often than oak barrels. This gives a more recognizably “Riesling” aroma and flavor to the wines. The leaner vinifications will have their successes with lighter cheeses, while the bigger and botrytized versions will pair better with the bolder cheeses. Regardless, Riesling will come through for you more often than not.

Some recent cheese successes include Alp Drackloch, Appenzeller, Beaufort, Beermat, Comté, Fontina Val d’Aosta, Gruyère, Hittisau, Hoch Ybrig, La Peral, Le Moulis, Manchego, Morbier, Mousseron Jurassien, Pawlet, Piave, Pecorino Foglie Noce, Swiss Raclette, Sainte-Maure, Sbrinz, Scharfe Maxx, Selles sur Cher, Stanser Rotelli, Tarentaise, Thomasville Tomme, Toma Maccagno, Tomme Fermier d’Alsace, Tomme de Savoie and Vacherin Fribourgeois.

By the way, if you happen to be someone who is not so fond of Riesling, try one of those stinky wash-rind cheeses with the orange rinds. No other varietal will match this family of cheeses nearly as well. You may become a new fan for Riesling.

Max McCalman