Our Sommeliers Vanessa Simmons & Debbie Trenholm was contacted by Laura Brehaut of Postmedia to offer their top cheese & wine pairing tips. We snipped out the 11 Practical Tips for Cheese Pairings from this article that oozed with great info to share from Debbie & Vanessa as well as other leading Canadian cheese supporters. Click here for the full article on Postmedia web site.
Tip #1 – What to look for…
“With any kind of pairing, you’re looking for balance. You’re looking for harmony in your mouth… You’re looking to make one or both sides of the pairing better,” says Jesse Vallins, Complex Cheese Pairings instructor at George Brown College and executive chef at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Tavern. “You can follow the rules and what experts say (but) at the end of the day, listen to your own mouth.”
Tip #2 – Consider intensity…
Vallins offers the example of Le Riopelle de l’Isle – “a big, rich, buttery, triple cream cheese” – made by Fromagerie Île-aux-Grues in Quebec. If you were to pair it with a light-bodied wine, the nuances in the beverage would be lost. Likewise, pairing buffalo mozzarella or ricotta with a bold red would “totally obliterate the flavour” of the fresh cheese.
Tip #3 – How much cheese should you buy?
For a tasting of five or more cheeses, buy 30 – 60 grams (1 – 2 oz) of each cheese per person. Round up if your guests are cheese lovers, or if you’re serving fewer cheeses. Round down if you’re serving other dishes, or presenting more cheeses.
Tip #4 – What temperature should it be?
Serve cheese at room temperature. Vanessa Simmons recommends taking the cheese out of the fridge at least 45 minutes before guests arrive. As you’re taking the cheese out, put your white and sparkling wines in the fridge to chill, Savvy Company’s lead Sommelier Debbie Trenholm says. While most reds will be stored and served at room temperature, she prefers to chill her Pinot Noir and Gamay Noir in the fridge for 10-15 minutes before serving.
Tip #5 – Start with a tasting pour: (30-60 mL/1-2 oz).
“A variety of wine goes a long way. Not every bit of cheese has to have a swig of wine. They should be enjoyed on their own separately and then played together to discover that taste,” Trenholm explains.
Tip #6 – “Red wine and cheese is a bit of a fallacy” Vallins says.
“It doesn’t actually work that well and it really shocks a lot of people.” As a rule of thumb, he suggests experimenting with dessert, fortified, sparkling, and off-dry white wines instead. “It’s a lot easier to make a great pairing than it is with reds. To me, the whole phrase ‘wine and cheese’ comes from sweet, sparkling and fortified wine.”
Tip #7- Use a separate knife for each cheese.
This will prevent the muddying of flavours. Additionally, make sure that each knife can stand up to actually cutting the cheeses it’s partnered with, especially with firmer varieties, Simmons says.
Tip #8 – What order do you go in?
Basic principles of progression apply, whether composing vertical or horizontal flights, or a spectrum of styles: young to old; mild to strong; and blues are always last.
Tip #9 – It’s a cheese faux pas to cut the “nose”
The very tip of a wedge of cheese represents the heart of the wheel. It has a very different character than the rest of the cheese and is definitely worth sharing. If you’re cutting from a wedge, slice off the side and be sure to take the accompanying bit of rind, too. If it’s a wheel, cut a slice from centre to rind as you would a piece of cake (if it’s a soft cheese, don’t scoop out the centre).
Tip #10 – When do you eat the rind?
If the rind is made of wax, don’t eat it, Cheese Sommelier Vanessa Simmons of Savvy Company suggests. Otherwise the choice is entirely up to the eater.
Tip #11 – How should you wrap leftovers?
Simmons recommends only buying what you need: “What’s good this week may not be great next week. It’s more like a ‘just in time’ type of experience.” If you do have leftovers, use cheese, parchment or wax paper, or a reusable product like Abeego. Avoid plastic wrap. You can also put wrapped cheese in a plastic bag or resealable container for a few days. Or better yet, make fromage fort – a French spread made by blending leftover cheeses, wine, garlic and seasonings (see Jacques Pépin’s recipe on food52.com).
This wine and cheese pairing, as well as the Top 11 list, appeared in Postmedia newspapers across Canada on April 4, 2017.