When you pair the right wine with the right cheese, it's a thing of beauty — a culinary ecstasy.
It takes a lot of know-how to pick the perfect wine and a little time shopping around to find the ideal cheese to bring out the deliciously subtle undertones of the wine.
With as many wines as there are grapes in California, and as many cheeses as there are cows in France — OK, I might be exaggerating a bit — finding the appropriate pairing can be hard, says wine expert Michael Vasta. In his role as director of operations for the Bluff View Art District, he is responsible for tasting all the wines that go on the wine menus he prepares.
"Pairing wine and cheeses is tough because cheese changes the taste of wine," he says. "Not the other way around, and that's something you have to be mindful of."
But there are some general rules of thumb to follow, much like the ones that say, "White wine with chicken and fish. Red with beef and pork."
But there's another rule of thumb that blows that one off the grapevine: "Forget all that, and drink whatever wine you like with whatever food you eat."
"Really," Vasta notes, "the main thing to remember is that you should choose a cheese that matches the intensity of the wine."
For example, he says, serve a light pinot noir with Gruyere. On the other end of the spectrum, pour a bold Cabernet and serve it with sharp cheddar or Gouda.
And those "funky" cheeses, like Roquefort and other blue-veined or soft, bloomy-rind cheeses?
"They're really good with port," he says.
Some of Vasta's favorite wine-and-cheese pairings are:
* Goat cheese with sauvignon blanc.
* Smoked Gouda cheese with Cabernet sauvignon.
* Comte cheese with pinot noir.
* Manchego cheese with a Spanish grenache.
* Aged pecorino cheese with an Italian sangiovese.
Here are some cheese-specific tips to consider if you host a wine-and-cheese gathering:
* Cheese should be served at room temperature to allow the flavors to blossom. Make sure to take the cheese out of your refrigerator an hour or two before you want to assemble the plate.
* Place a different knife beside each cheese to prevent flavor crossover.
* Dried fruits, nuts and small breads not only complete a cheese plate, but offer color and texture to the presentation.
* Do not remove the rind from the cheese unless it's a wax rind, such as that found on chunks of gouda. The rind is not only edible; it is actually part of the cheese's flavor.
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Contact Anne Braly at email@example.com.