I never knew I liked blue cheese until I tried it soft and warm atop a thick, juicy steak. I never knew that what we in America think of as Swiss cheese really isn’t until I went to Switzerland.
For me, those experiences resulted in two wine-and-cheese pairings that you absolutely must try before you die — and hopefully several times before that inevitable day arrives.
Blue cheese is salty, spicy and pungent when crumbled over a salad or simply served solo. But when you mix it with a little butter and then dab it on a broiled-to-perfection steak, it instantly becomes a perfect pairing partner for Pinot Noir, especially one from a region where the wine takes on a somewhat earthy character.
If you think you don’t like blue cheese, give that combo a try. It may change your mind, as it did mine.
Two autumns ago, the Mrs. and I visited Switzerland — a place about which I had no preconceived notions. We were visiting a friend who lives in the mountain community of Engelberg, and we asked him to share with us an authentic Swiss dining experience.
“Do you like cheese?” our friend asked. My dad’s side of our family comes from Wisconsin, so the answer was an enthusiastic yes.
That night, we were treated to a wonderful Swiss fondue dinner. I presumed that Swiss cheese would be used, but as my friend pointed out, there are dozens and dozens of different types of cheese made in Switzerland.
The pot of melted gooey goodness turned out to be a mixture of equal parts gruyere and emmenthaler, and about one-third as much Appenzeller. Day-old bread, pickles and a few other bite-sized items were provided for dipping, and we washed it all down with glasses of Austrian Gruner Veltliner wine.
Sadly, we can’t go to Switzerland every day, so we must seek out wine-and-cheese pairings that are a bit more accessible. The wines included in this collection of Heavenly Cheese Pairing Reds provide half of the “answer.”
What about the cheese?
Well, with the fruit-forward 3 Muses Zinfandel, I’d opt for Parmesan or Asiago, either of which could be sprinkled on pizza or pasta with a red sauce.
With the rich, classic Espirit des Trois Pieres, a red Leicester would work well, or opt for a simple macaroni-and-cheese meal or a cheese-topped casserole using a mix of your favorite cheeses, with cheddar as the base.
And with the full-bodied and spicy Tamaya Reserva, an aged cheddar would work very nicely.
All of that said, don’t be afraid to experiment. Who knows? Perhaps you’ll have a wine-and-cheese pairing epiphany like I had with blue cheese and “Swiss cheese.”