If you can get people to try a white wine other than Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio, it might not be such an easy thing. Those three varietals are the work-horses for Americans’ white wine preferences. All together I would venture to guess they comprise more than half the white wine we consume, and quite possibly as much or more than a third of all wines that we drink. Not that I have anything against those three but they do have their limits when you pair them with cheeses.
Last week I was reminded of how valuable the humble Muscat can be as a cheese varietal. Years ago it was my number one go-to white varietal if a guest wanted a recommendation for a glass of white to go with their cheese course. The grape can cover a range of dryness: from drier table or sparkling wines to dessert and fortified wines. Depending on the guest’s tolerance for bubbles or sweetness, this would define the Muscat style I would recommend.
At last week’s Sexy Cheese & Sumptuous Wines class the Bonny Doon Muscat was the star player among the four wines poured. The Mâcon Chardonnay held up fairly well except with the one sheep milk cheese in the mix, the Abbaye de Belloc. The Napa Merlot was delicious on its own but it did not come into its own until we reached the Epoisses, the Gruyère, and the sweet Prima Donna. The Merlot fell flat with most every other cheese on the plate including the blue Fourme d’Ambert. The northern Rhône Syrah fared a bit better than the Merlot but the star of the show was Muscat.
I would not write off Muscat out of hand. Some may be a bit cloying but many are simply delightful, especially with cheeses.
- Max McCalman