We asked local wine experts for the best pairings of the season and they responded with these suggestions to add an extra bit of savor to the palate of your party. Whether you want to change your usual appetizers or simply impress your guests at your next party, try the following wine and cheese combinations to bring out the best in each.
In a country known for passion and flavor, the cheese of Grana Padano has a strong, zesty aroma that is uniquely its own. “A hard, grainy cheese with savory and slightly sweet flavors, Grana Padano has an oily rind and alluring aroma,” says Daniel DeWeese of Pairings Food & Wine Market. “Like its bolder cousin, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana is produced from cow’s milk in Italy’s Lombardy region.”
DeWeese says the cheese is ideally suited to pair with the powerful Italian reds from nebbiolo grapes in the neighboring Piedmont region. “It also works well with Chianti and other lighter, more acidic reds made with sangiovese grapes.” Primitivo and zinfandel are also great matches.
Serving recommendation: Serve Grana Padano on a savory, lightly salted cracker, perhaps accompanied by a thin slice of prosciutto. Grana’s grainy texture will melt on your tongue.
The rolling, green hills and meadows of Great Britain are reflected in the taste of sage Derby, a cheese with a mild herbal flavor and green marbling. The cheese was originally developed in Derbyshire, England, in the 1600s. “Dried sage dust was incorporated with curds of Derby into molds and aged several months,” DeWeese says. “The sage was thought to be a healthful tonic rather than just a flavoring.” The cheese is similar in texture to mild cheddar, but the buttery flavor pairs well with zinfandel or syrah wines.
Serving recommendation: If you have beer lovers in your midst, serve sage Derby with a pale or amber ale, such as Bella’s Two Hearted Ale or Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
Love from the Mountains
The breathtaking landscape of Switzerland is also known for one of the great mountain cheeses of the world. “The recipe of Appenzeller involves the raw milk of Simmentaler cows,” says Gina Holman, certified sommelier at Wayzata Wine & Spirits.
“It’s a full-flavored, robust cheese with uniquely spiced flavors due to the multiple washings in a mixture of herbs, white wines and sometimes a wash with brandy, which gives it more complexity,” she says. The cheese has a grained, yellow to reddish-brown rind with an interior that is ivory to yellow with pea-sized holes. The unique flavor of the cheese pairs well with zesty aromatic white wines, uniquely spiced due to multiple washings in a mixture of herbs.
Serving recommendation: Pair the cheese with Pratsch Gruner Veltliner 2011 from Austria or “late harvest” gewürztraminer made by Anam Cara Winery in Oregon.
In a country known for sweet things, the dessert cheese of St. André offers a creamy sweetness that could serve as a palate cleanser or a perfect ending to any meal.
St. André is a pasteurized triple-crème from the Midi/Pyrenées region of France. “The cheese is very soft and mild, yet extremely rich with a pleasant aroma,” Holman says. The outside of the cheese is covered in a soft, velvety white rind, while the inside is pale yellow. The high fat content of this cheese can make it difficult to pair, but a safe bet is choosing a dessert wine.
Serving recommendation: Serve St. André with fresh fruit and Champagne such as Lallement Brut NV Champagne from Montagne de Reims.