COLUMN WRITTEN BY PHILLIP SILVERSTONE
Whenever I’m in Paris, I tend to spend many pleasant late afternoon interludes perched on my hotel balcony, watching the Parisians scurrying along, and humming Gene Kelly songs. And I normally savor the moment accompanied by two of my best chums — the greatest gastronomical marriage I know — wine and cheese.
Given the option of dining at a super-hyped 16-star Michelin restaurant or savoring some gorgeous wine and cheese, the wine and cheese win hands down virtually every time. It’s not because I’m a cheapskate, or that I’m lacking culinary refinement. It’s simply because I get enormous pleasure cheese surfing — knowing that so many delightfully stinky fragrances await me at the counter. And when I see cheese, I immediately visualize its wine counterpart. You can just imagine the personal ad: “Fresh, no rind, cream-cheese type, seeks very light, very young, Petit Chablis for serious relationship. No sourdough or old baguettes, please.”
Wine and cheese parties have always been the easiest soirees to organize. In fact, I quite often save the dozens of wines I’m sent to evaluate and invite friends to sample them with me. Our guests arrive on our doorstep laden with an assortment of small portions of exotic cheeses. In fact, if you’re thinking about throwing a wine tasting, it’s just as much fun researching the cheeses available in your local gourmet store or farmers market and trying to match the personality of each cheese with its grapey blind date.
Like most aspects of wine and food, no two opinions are alike when it comes to wine and cheese matches. My suggestions are not etched in rind, but they work for me. Drink red wine with hard cheeses and white wine with soft cheeses; but, just like the old red wine with fish concept, there are always exceptions.
Here are some recommendations:
For cream cheese and Mascarpone, try a white Vinho Verde from Portugal. When it comes to the seriously smelly Gorgonzola, it’s generally accepted that the sinfully decadent sweet, luscious French Sauternes is the perfect partner. Wining Brits and Anglophiles will attest to the fact that Stilton and Port are the consummate couple. Mild cheddar enjoys the company of light reds, while well-aged cheddar fares well with a not too intense Cabernet Sauvignon. Cheshire is one of my favorites, and believe it or not, a glass of cider — and I’m talking about the alcoholic variety — goes down a treat with this cheese. I’ve also enjoyed Cheshire with German Riesling. Riesling works well with Gouda, but then so does Shiraz from Down Under. And, if you like goat cheese, try a Sancerre from France.
Cheese has so much in common with wine — its flavor changes with age, it’s produced from regions all over the world with names most of us can’t pronounce, and we could be intimidated at the cheese counter, especially if the featured cheese is the Vacherin Mont d’Or and all you want is some low-fat Edam.
The bottom line — because in all things wine-related there’s always a bottom line — is this: if in doubt, let your taste buds guide you.
When they first invented cheese, I wonder whether there was a little bloke on his mobile frantically calling his counterparts in the wine regions around the world: “Good morning, Klaus … Cedric here. How’s the weather in Vienna today? Jolly good show … now listen, old chap, some bright spark just invented a cheese that she calls Tilsit, so be a good fellow and invent the Gruner Veltliner grape for me. You will? Oh, splendid. Must dash, an American chappie has just invented something called ‘Cheese Whiz,’ so I have to alert young ‘Dr. Pepper’ immediately.”
Phillip Silverstone’s column appears regularly in this publication. “Time Out With Phillip Silverstone” is a weekly two-hour podcast heard exclusively on TuneIn radio anytime and anywhere worldwide either on the free TuneIn app for all smart phones and tablets (Search: Phillip Silverstone) or online on Tunein at: http://bit.ly/1gY2Ht4. “Follow” the show for weekly updates. You can also LIKE Phillip on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Phillipsilverstone and follow him on Twitter: @wining