(By Debbi Sion – head of traning department, Golan Heights winery)
A bit of Background
For thousands of years people have enjoyed the classical coupling of wine and cheese. Originating in Europe, the French region of Berry was one of the first to introduce this culinary treat. In this ancient area, famous cheeses were historically coupled with tannin-rich wines such as Beaujolais. Similarly the well-known Italian cheese Asiago was often paired with popular Italian wines like Chianti or Brunello, which originate from the same region.
The naturally opposing tastes of these two flavours create a scrumptious sensation for the palate. Cheese is full of flavour and natural fats while wines are brimming with acidity and tannins, which, together, delight the senses.
Bringing the Pairing to Your Table
One of the finest culinary experiences is when an excellent cheese is matched with the right type of wine. Not every quality cheese suits every quality wine so it is important to choose correctly. When this happens and a successful ‘match’ is made, the gastronomic pleasure is extraordinary.
As your table groans under the weight of cheese laden dishes and spreads, enhance your Shavuot by making educated choices when choosing which wines to pair with your cheeses. Cheeses can be grouped into various categories and it’s important to distinguish the unique characteristics when searching for the suitable wine. The following tips can help you navigate the supermarket aisles and serve up a wine-cheese pairing made in heaven
A few general tips
A general assumption is that red wines match well with every cheese yet, in actuality, whites are usually better suited for the salty delicacy. The notion that reds and cheeses make the perfect combination comes from the French tradition which ends the main course with a cheese board and glass of red wine.
There is no “one size fits all” approach, but in many instances Chardonnays, with their full body and rich taste, enhance the flavours of a wide variety of cheeses. It is preferable to focus on two or three types of quality cheeses, rather than filling the table with a selection that is less suitable for wine.
Sharp Cheeses with a rich and dominant taste; e.g. Gargonzolo and Roquefort. To balance these overriding flavours, choose an equally rich dessert wine giving these cheeses an entirely unique experience altogether. Recommended dessert wines include the Yarden Muscat, the Mount Hermon Moscato or the Yarden HeightsWine.
Goats Cheeses have a high proportion of fatty acids which contribute to this cheese’s characteristically tart flavour. Goats cheese is identified almost exclusively with dry white wine, precisely because of the cheese’s acidity and freshness. Suggested wines include the Gamla Sauvignon Blanc or the Mount Hermon White which are perfect choices for local and fresh goat cheeses.
Semi-Hard Cheeses can be creamy and nutty and develop a more complex character with age e.g. Gouda, Gruyère and Emmental. These sweet yet salty choices pair well with light reds such as the Gamla Sangiovese and the Gamla Cabernet Sauvignon.
Smoked Cheeses have a distinctly strong taste, e.g. Gruyere, Provolone and Smoked Cheddar. The perfect palate match for these flavours are semi-dry and dry white wines which are characterized by spicy aromas and hints of tropical fruit. Recommended wines are the Yarden Gewurztraminer or the Gamla Riesling, whose light sweetness adds contrast and interest to the dish.
Rich and buttery cheeses have a decadent, creamy texture; e.g. Brie and Camenbert. These cheeses pair better with whites than reds, but if red wines are your tipple of choice then give the Yarden Pinot Noir a go (it should be served slightly chilled). Brie is specifically compatible with a rich, full bodied Chardonnay (particularly one that has been aged extensively in an oak barrel). The Gamla Chardonnay or the elegant Yarden Chardonnay make perfect accompaniments for Brie.
One final tip- for a dish with a twist, bake these cheeses in a wine fondue to impress and delight your friends!
From all of us at the Golan Heights Winery, have a great holiday and L’chaim!