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December 13, 2009

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Wine and cheese - perfect winter warmer

FRESH back from a Spanish wine and food trip, my memories of tasting beautiful wines and cheeses are vivid. The pairing of wine and cheese is always a good idea and especially so in the cold winter months.

Whether at a meal or as an afternoon snack with friends, this is an ideal way to enjoy wines. Shanghai, like northern Spain, shares cold winter days when a good wine and fragrant cheese can warm your spirit as well as your body. With this in mind, I'd like to introduce readers to some delicious ways to enjoy wine and cheese together. There are a few simple rules to follow.

Soft creamy cheeses tend to go well with many types of dry wines; more acidic varieties like goats cheese pair well with a similarly acidic wine like sauvignon blanc or albarino; hard cheeses go nicely with tannic reds; try salty or stinky cheeses with sweet wines; and when lost pair a cheese from a certain region with a wine from that region. It's also important to serve cheese at room temperature to allow the flavors to come out. Serving cold cheese straight out of the refrigerator will mask its lovely flavors and textures.

For Starters

A simple and enjoyable way to start enjoying wine and cheese together is with soft mild tasting cheeses like the smooth and nutty Fontina, w or the only slightly stronger Camembert with a dry wine of your liking.

Sparkling wines like the charming Italian Carpene Malvolte, Prosecco Extra Dry and the Spanish Freixenet Cordon Negro are good choices, as is a Burgundian or California chardonnay.

Just take a plain cracker, add a little butter if you like, then the cheese. The soft and very mild flavored Buffalo Mozzarella is great enjoyed with a slightly chilled Chianti red wine.

All these combinations are easy ways for people to start enjoying wines and cheeses together.

After a period of time, don't be surprised if you start desiring more strongly flavored cheeses as your palate develops.

Hard Cheeses

There are few combinations in the gourmet world more perfect than a flavorful aged hard cheese with the proper wine. My favorite is a good Sangiovese red like Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico (DOCG) served with an aged Parmesan Reggiano.

The fruitiness of the wine embellishes the flavors of the cheese while the tannins in the wine facilitate digestion. Sharp cheddar cheese is great with many types of red wines, especially smooth and generous Spanish wines like a good Spanish wine from Ribera del Duero or Rioja. Wines like this available in Shanghai include the sumptuous Marques de Riscal, 1860 Tempranillo 2006 and good value El Coto de Rioja Crianza.

Stinky Cheeses

Many people are simply blown away by the pungent tastes and aromas of stinky cheeses. The best way to offset these extreme sensations is to drink a sweet wine. The sweetness and fruitiness of the wines balance the strong flavors of the cheese and refresh the palate. Classic stinky cheese and wine combinations include the French combination of Roquefort cheese with any good Sauternes or Barsac wine. The sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac are among the world's greatest and perfect companions to very pungent cheeses.

If you don't want a very sweet wine, try Italian Gorgonzola cheese with a big, slightly sweet wine from Veneto like the Zenato, Amorone Della Valpolicella Classico (DOC) or Masi Costasera Amarone Classico (DOC) that feature abundant sweet fruitiness and alcohol content of about 15-16 percent. Whether with stinky cheeses or hard varieties, the art of wine and cheese tasting will enrich your gourmet life.


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