Oaky Chard and Cheese

One of my favourite artisan cheese shops in BC is The Farm House Natural Cheeses in Agassiz.  Very consistent and a varying array of complexity within many of the cheeses, I also appreciate the age worthiness of some them.  Tonight I opened a beautiful 2005 Twin Benches Herder Chardonnay to taste with a Cheddar and Country Blue from The Farm House.

I anticipated the aged characteristics of the Chardonnay as it has been at least three years since I have had the 2005.  My notes recall the soft acidity, integrated sweet oak, and tropical fruits on a buttery palate.  I am pleased the soft acidity still holds and even expresses preserved lemon tones over the cooked pineapple and nectarine jam with almost an annoying presence of vanilla.  Still throwing out a bit of alcohol on the finish but very enjoyable.  I do appreciate age and am respectful the wine has become a bit disjointed.  I am sad it is my last bottle, I would have happily opened another over the next couple years.

Pairing wine and cheese is almost a safety net for some people.  When in doubt, grab some cheese.  Most cheeses will change most wines and it is likely that fact alone that most people consider it a good pairing simply because the wine changed.  I should make a disclaimer here that a good percentage of wine lovers are still at the “do I like it” phase of their wine life.  One of my goals with this blog is to find that common ground that all levels can relate to.  Even though much of my perspective is directed towards chefs, it is just as important for all food and wine lovers. Lets look at how these cheeses interact with this aged oaky chardonnay.

Are you ready to taste?

Cheddar – the soft crumbly texture almost dissolves on the tongue before it is naturally pushed to the sides and roof of you mouth.  The Cheddar leaves a soft granular coating that tends to resonate in the middle of your palate.  The distinct cheddar flavour drifts from the front of your palate to the middle with no finish.

Cheddar undergoes an additional step in the cheesemaking process that “texturizes” the curd. This step is called cheddaring, and basically has the effect of expelling whey and lowering the pH of the curd to a place where the curd knits together into a rubbery mass. Then the curd is “milled” or cut into smaller pieces, tossed with salt and pressed into wheels or blocks.  – Debra Amrein-Boyes, The Farm House Natural Cheeses.

Chardonnay + Cheddar = The flavours combine on the front of the palate and the tropical fruits fade out to focus on the preserved lemons on the finish.  The oak sits on the back of your palate but the flavour combination leaves a nuttiness and dried apple.  Definitely a positive combination.

Country Blue – Incredible intensity with spikes of saltiness and layers of sweet nutty flavours with a beautiful stink and the perfect amount of bitterness.  The flavour lingers with an almost meaty after taste.

Chardonnay + Country Blue = The intensity from the cheese has cancelled out the oak on the palate and brought the focus to the tropical fruits.  The oak on the finish was also muted and left the wine thin with heat and alcohol as a remnant.  I really enjoy the fruit from the wine and saltiness from the cheese, they play well together and the thin back end is a small price to pay for the great flavour combination.

Most quality cheeses leave your palate with a coating or residual flavour profile.  Building on the principle that wine must give something up to cut through that layer or coating has proved valid here again.  The oak and tropical fruits were dominant players with this wine and they were the first to be altered with the cheese.  It is also a theory that salts in foods act the same way towards a wine and will enhance the flavours within a wine as well.  This normally starts with the dominant flavours and in the case with the Blue Cheese, the fruit was heightened while the oak took one for the team cutting through the residual layer on the palate, but was accentuated on the finish where there was not much of  a fruit presence.

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