This Sunday, July 25 is perhaps my favorite holiday of the year: National Wine & Cheese Day.
Wine and cheese, cheese and wine – the perfect pairing that is known globally to never disappoint. What makes this pairing so perfect though? Is it simply that they just go together naturally or is there something scientific behind it?
We can thank tannins for this perfect pairing. Tannins are naturally occurring compounds found in grape skins as well as seeds and stems. Tannins are released from the skins, seeds and stems when they soak in the grape juice just after the grapes have been pressed, giving wine its signature dry characteristic. The longer the skins, seeds and stems soak in the juice, the greater tannin characteristics the wine will have, giving it a stronger bitter taste. Tannins are also a natural antioxidant to protect the wine allowing it to be aged and help add complexity.
So what exact role does tannin play for pairing wine with cheese? Scientists have found that high protein and high fat foods help counteract the taste of tannin in wine, making cheese the ultimate pairing partner. High fattening foods such as cheese, wash away the tannin making wine softer and easier to drink giving it a less dry mouthfeel.
Get the best of both worlds by indulging in one of these wine-soaked cheeses and their perfect pairing!
1. Fior d'Arancio Blue Cheese with Orange
A spectacularly unique product, this Italian blue cheese is bathed in Fior d’Arancio DOCG (a sweet wine produced with Moscato grapes grown in volcanic soil) for about 30 days and then left to finish aging on wooden planks. The wine helps the cheese develop enticing aromas of stone fruits, honey, and orange blossom, all encased in a lush, full flavored paste. To complement its unique flavor profile, this cheese is best paired with a sweet and herbaceous Moscato or a vibrant Tokaji Aszu with opulent aromas of tropical fruit and honey.
You can purchase Fior d'Arancio Blue Cheese here.
2. Weinkase Lagrein
While Weinkase Lagrein means "wine cheese" in German, this cheese is from northern Italy. Creamy and smooth, this unusual cow's milk tomme is soaked in a bath of Italian Lagrein wine, herbs, garlic and pepper for five days before being aged for 2-4 months. Buy it here.
The resulting cheese has the cherry and plum notes of the wine and a smooth paste with small, irregular holes. Pair Weinkase Lagrein with a light bodied Pinot Noir to balance out the full-bodied flavor of the wine in which this cheese is soaked.
3. Mitica Drunken Goat®
The producer says about Drunken Goat that "this semi soft goat cheese is soaked in the traditional style wine of the region, Doble Pasta, which is made from the Monastrell grape. The cheese is aged for 60 days, so that you can still enjoy some of the wine’s flavors and the rind takes on an attractive violet hue. Drunken Goat® is mild and smooth, not goaty, with a touch of fruitiness in the finish." You can purchase Drunken Goat® here.
The light, delicate wine notes will be masked by a strong, full-bodied wine. Try it with a medium-bodied Tempranillo to compliment the cheese's wine flavors instead of overwhelming them.
4. L'Affiné Au Chablis
L'Affiné Au Chablis is a traditional cheese from the Burgundy region of France made with cow's milk. cow’s milk. It has a lightly gold-tinged rind and luscious and creamy center. Repeated washings with Chablis wine prior to aging gives this cheese its characteristic color and mild, fresh, floral and fruity aroma.
The fruity and delicate flavor of l'Affiné Au Chablis is a natural match for a fruity Riesling. A sparkling Moscato would also be a great pair for this cheese as its sweet flavor compliments the fruity notes of the cheese the bubbles cut through the fat of the cheese's melting, creamy interior.
5. Yancey's Fancy Champagne Cheddar
"Champagne from the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate New York gives this aged cheddar a light and slightly sweet flavor that is guaranteed to enchant your taste buds. Serve as an elegant hors d’oueuvre along with fresh strawberries, pears and grapes. It also makes a truly delectable dessert, paired with fresh berries and fine chocolates." An unusual combination that tastes truly delicious. You can buy this unique cheese here!
The bubbles in Moscato will act as a palate cleanser for this creamy cheese. Champagne Cheddar pairs well with sweet accompaniments, and Moscato fits the bill!
6. Sartori Chardonnay BellaVitano®
Sartori's BellaVitano® is rich and creamy with nutty and fruity flavors. It begins in the mouth like a fine Parmesan then finishes with hints of melted butter. Original BellaVitano® is soaked with Chardonnay wine, giving the cheese bright and buttery notes.
Beyond the obvious pairing of Chardonnay, Champagne is a perfect wine to sip alongside Chardonnay BellaVitano®. Buy this delicious cheese here.
Enjoy these boozy cheeses with your favorite cured meats, nuts, crackers or bread and fresh fruit.