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Traci Lee
January 24, 2011 | Traci Lee

Drink More Wine

Wine and cheese pairings should be experimental; it is an interactive way to strengthen your palate and to truly concentrate on flavor profiles. I often find myself more attentive towards a wine, cheese or a food if it is unfamiliar, but always compare with flavors previously experienced.  For example, if I were tasting an exotic fruit on a tropical island, I would think "does this taste like a mango, pineapple or a strawberry?"  Maybe it is unlike anything I have tasted before, but the next time I try another fruit, I will add this tropical flavor to my comparison. 

Successful wine pairings work the same way: the pairing will always be judged on your own memory of flavor profiles. Bottom line - to become a better taster, drink more wine, and eat more cheese!  This allows you to compartmentalize what you have tasted and further understand what you like and do not like about the pairing.

This week, I selected a traditional French cheese that was new to me: Bethmale, a semi-soft, raw cow's milk cheese from the Pyrénées. This pasty, yellow-hued cheese has swiss-style holes and a leather-like rind with strong, stinky nose. On the palate, this cheese is spicy on the tongue, but melts into a smooth, fruity, much milder delight with a long finish.

After getting a sense of the cheese, I uncorked a bottle of Vina Sastre Tinto Ribera Del Duero, a Spanish red wine, made of 100% Tempranillo grapes from a family-run vineyard using biodynamic and organic practices. The nose offered up soft-cedar and violet characteristics and the flavor profile provided a spicy, fruit-forward richness, along with an interesting depth and great structure.  (The Tinto also paired  perfectly with a Spicy Chili I made for dinner!)

Together, this wine and cheese created harmony. The cheese offered a punch in the beginning and became milder as it melted in my mouth.  The wine provided the opposite - a gentle, sweet nose with a bigger flavor on it's finish, which I loved!  Merging the two provided a great example of complementary flavors - they played to each other's strengths, without overbearing each other.  Delicious!


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