Wine with Food: with Cheese (part 1)
by Paul Kalemkiarian Sr | August 1982
The custom of cheese after the meal is commonly seen in the United States. It is a tradition in France, and often encountered in England, Germany, and other European countries. If you practice it in this country, it is sometimes interpreted as a pretension of continentalism, and many people are uncomfortable with it. Some will poke fun at it; others will awkwardly accept or refuse the course. I happen to love cheese, and a small portion of good cheese with a plain cracker or crusty bread just tops the meal, changes the pace, and adds a new dimension to the flavor of the meal in anticipation of the final sweet course. Try it sometime. Our markets are showing a myriad of varieties, both domestic and imported. Some of the specialty cheese shops have a larger selection of these, usually available in bulk and fresher.
Red wine is more commonly served with cheese than white wine. If you have served a red wine with your main course, then select a cheese to accompany it, and finish up the red wine rather than introduce another wine. If you are serving a white wine with your main course, you can continue with it, and serve a complementary cheese. That is not to say that you should never introduce another wine for a cheese course—there are those times when you have a very special aged wine, and more often a port wine or sherry you particularly want to serve to, your guests. The time to do it is after the main course. The “Vin de Resistence” now has its honored place in your meal and a complementary cheese becomes the crowning jewel. My—My—I do get carried away! But it’s true—give me an aged Chambertin, some stilton, and some crusty bread– I do not need any of the other courses, really! Well let’s get down to earth.
All wines go with cheese, but to quote a famous wine and food personality “some cheeses and wines have marriages made in heaven, while others get along less blissfully.” Some of the recommendations laid down by authorities dictate a variety of rules of thumb.
1) Aged cheese requires old wine, young cheese, new wine. There is some substance to this, but it is not infallible. It will be a matter of personal taste in the final analysis.
2) Serve wine from the same country the cheese is from. It makes good sense—the foods and wines of every country tend to harmonize. Think about that a bit in relationship of cheeses from a particular country. Nevertheless, with some countries making wines similar to the wines from other countries, this rule dictates that you do not have to abide by this rule except for patriotic reasons! Furthermore, you must go a step beyond, and follow rule No. 1 along with No. 2 if you are to comply with No. 2.
3) Stronger cheeses need full bodied wine, milder cheese goes better with a light wine. This is not the same as rule No. 1. Body of wine is a function of its consistency and the total extractives and their by-products from the grape, as well’ as its glycerin content. The “feel of fullness” of the wine, in your mouth; other than the “flavor fullness”, is the characteristic we are speaking about. This is sometimes physically demonstrated by the “legs” of the wine when you swirl it in your glass.
Take all the three rules into consideration when you decide on the wine to serve with your cheese, or the cheese you serve with your wine! Or—just find your wine or cheese in the tables that will appear in the next issue.