I attended The Art of Pairing Wine and Cheese at The Chef’s Academy in Morrisville on Friday evening. Mary Margaret McCamic led the class in an exploration of the different ways that wine and cheese can work together. We tasted seven different wines paired with six different cheeses. Mary Margaret loves wine and received her diploma of wine and spirits after quitting her job as a high school teacher to study in New York City. She enjoys learning about wine and food but most importantly, loves sharing her knowledge with others.
There are five pairing concepts to consider about wine and cheese: texture, dominant flavors, location, weight and acidity. For instance, cheese and wine that grow in the same area are nicely paired. I also learned that if a cheese is salty, serve a sweeter wine to tame the flavor. If you are serving a goat cheese, one of my favorite cheeses, you would want to pair an acidic, tart wine to match.
Mary Margaret also decoded wine terms that I’ve often heard thrown around by restaurant servers. I usually just pretend I know what they are talking about! Mary Margaret discussed the differences in dry and sweet wines. Dry wines have little to no residual sugar whereas sweet wines have leftover detectable sugar. Dry wines are acidic, which is responsible for the fresh tart taste in wine. Acidity is important in wine because it brings freshness and balance to the wine. Another term you find many wine connoisseurs talking about is the body of a glass of wine. Body is determined by how full a wine feels in your mouth. Mary Margaret broke this down into simpler terms by comparing wine to milk. A light-bodied wine would have the mouth feel of skim milk and a full-bodied wine would have the mouth feel of whole milk.
The first pairing was the Non-Vintage Gruet Blanc de Noirs from New Mexico with Saint Andre Triple Cream cow’s milk cheese from France. The cheese is rich and buttery with a bloomy rind. The wine was perfect and cleanses your palate after the cheese coats your mouth. Mary Margaret created this pairing to demonstrate how texture is important when serving wine and cheese.
The second pairing was the 2011 Domaine Baron Sauvignon Blanc “Les Vieilles Vignes” from Touraine, Loire Valley, France with Sevre et Belle Bucherondin goat’s milk cheese from the same location. Goat’s milk cheeses have a strong flavor and are paired nicely with a dry, acidic wine. The strong taste of the cheese causes the wine to have a sweeter flavor. This light-bodied wine smelled amazing and I tasted hints of bell pepper and jalapeno. Mary Margaret created this pairing to demonstrate how location and acidity are important when serving wine and cheese.
One of my favorite pairings was the 2010 Cave de Beblenheim Heimberger Gewurztraminer from Alsace, France with the Ca de Ambros Tallegio cow’s milk cheese from Italy. I loved the floral smell of the wine. This aromatic wine complimented this “stinky” cheese. After this pairing one of the participants said, “Consider my mind blown!” Mary Margaret created this pairing to demonstrate how dominant flavors and weight are important when serving wine and cheese.
I’m slightly obsessed with figs and I’m big on dessert. I’ll admit to having a massive sweet tooth. I tried the Cesar Florido Chipiona Muscat Pasas from Jerez, Spain and immediately fell in love. This wine has a high sugar content and wonderful fig flavor. The wine would be perfect for dessert when paired with a rich and creamy cheese topped with fruit preserves. Mary Margaret surprised the class with this seventh wine and we ended class on a sweet note!
I found the course to be extremely helpful because most people, including myself want to make a great impression around the holidays. I’m not an expert at pairing wine and cheese but after this class I now feel comfortable serving a glass of wine with cheese to my holiday guests with sophisticated tastes! I enjoyed Mary Margaret’s interactive teaching style and visual aids like maps and pictures.
I encourage you to sign up for The Chef’s Academy’s January 11, 2013 class, The Art of Pairing Wine and Food. The class is $50 per person and you will actually be cooking and tasting wine! Please call Angela at (919) 246-9041 to make your reservation. This class would be perfect to give as a gift to your loved ones this holiday season.