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Garrotxa and Rioja

10239 Garrotxa and Rioja

Queso Garrotxa has been one of my favorites for years. The rustic appearance of the rind belies the mild creamy flavor of the paste. At one time this cheese was near extinction. To think that we might be without this lovely cheese today!

Goat milk cheeses can be a little difficult to pair with red wines. This past weekend I had the opportunity to taste the Garrotxa with a white and a red Rioja. The white was 100% Viura, the red was mostly Tempranillo with a little Garnacha and Graciano added.

The white wine made an excellent match; I gave it my highest score for a pairing – a +2 – from the scoring system I employ in Cheese & Wine 101, as well as most of our other classes.

Viura resembles a Sauvignon Blanc in its flavor/aroma profile, not quite as acid, a little more floral than citrus. Delighted with this pairing I had my doubts about what the red wine would deliver. It happened to be equally pleasing, from start to finish, another +2. The red Rioja had medium tannins and the berry flavor came through. And because the Garrotxa is made with pasteurized goat milk, this makes the marriage with different wines a bit more manageable. The “marriages-made-in-heaven” are less frequently noted with the pasteurized cheeses however.

A good Garrotxa can be a wonderful thing, and this time of year they should be in excellent form. This Garrotxa was in outstanding shape, firm but moist, creamy with just a little tang in the middle. I recall experiencing another “marriage-made-in-heaven” with another wine many years ago – a white Meursault. This is one reason why Garrotxa made the back cover of my first book – The Cheese Plate – and the front cover of my second one – Cheese, a Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Best. The Garrotxa was one of the first cheeses that dispelled the notion that cheeses and wines should come from the same terroir to be good matches.

Of course Rioja is not all that far away from where the Garrotxas are produced. There is so much that goes into cheese making, as well as what goes into wine making, that to say that they should come from the same place is a little too easy. It is a good place to start however. Throw a dart on a map and see which cheeses and wines are produced closest to where the dart lands; they may work well together. In more cases than not, fine cheeses do pair well with wines, no matter where they are made.

Spread the curd!
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