Perhaps the only thing that rivals wine for history, complexity, mystery, depth and taste is cheese.
It makes perfect sense that some of the great wine-producing regions in the world – France, Italy, Spain and Germany among them – also craft some of the finest and most delicious cheeses.
One of the most delicious food-and-wine pairings involve cheese, and a new book – Tasting Wine & Cheese by Adam Centamore – aims to remove some of the mystery and bring in a lot of flavor and education.
Here’s a fun exercise we like to try at wine education tastings:
– Pour three different wines: a dry white (Sauvignon Blanc), a sweet white (an off-dry Riesling) and a rich red (a Syrah or a Cabernet Sauvignon).
– Find three kinds of cheeses: brie, cheddar and blue.
– Try each wine with each cheese. See how they interact. See how the wines change the flavors of the cheeses. Notice now the cheeses interact with the flavors and structures of the wines.
It’s fascinating to see how different cheeses react. This is why Centamore’s new book is such a delicious discovery. He knows of what he writes. The East Coast educator works as a wine retailer, teaches at a cheese importer and conducts wine-and-cheese classes for private and corporate events.
‘Tasting Wine & Cheese’
Tasting Wine & Cheese, which is available just in time for the holidays, is a complete education of how to taste both wine and cheese, as well as both of them together. Centamore looks at the various ways our taste buds work and the different aspects of flavor that are found in wine and food.
After an introductory chapter on how to taste food and wine and the science behind it, Centamore dives into food-and-cheese pairing in four larger chapters:
- White wine
- Red wine
- Dessert wine
Within each chapter, he looks at various styles and varieties, providing a brief history of the grapes and the winemaking styles, then providing suggestions for cheese pairings.
Moscato is a sparkling wine made from Muscat grapes. It is most famously from Italy and often is made in a light, low-alcohol style and can be enjoyed at any time of day. Centamore’s favorite cheese pairing with Moscato is burrata, an Italian fresh mozzarella that is often filled with cream, butter or puréed figs.
Albariño is a bright white wine that originates in Spain and is catching on in the Pacific Northwest, thanks to its beautiful fruit notes backed by citrusy acidity. Centamore sees fresh goat and sheep milk cheeses working best with Albariño. He particularly likes Garrotxa St. Gil, an aged goat cheese that pairs beautifully with Albariño’s acidity.
Sangiovese is a rich red grape from Italy’s Tuscany region, particularly Chianti Classico. It has never thrived in the New World, but we do find many delicious examples now being made in the Pacific Northwest. Centamore likes to pair cheeses that have mild flavors that won’t compete quite so much with the wine. His favorite is Parmigiano-Reggiano, a cow milk cheese whose saltiness is a perfect foil for the delicious red wine.
Port, the famous high-alcohol dessert wine from Portugal, perhaps provides the classic wine-and-cheese pairing. Centamore agrees: “There can be only one,” he writes. “The classic English blue cheese Stilton with Tawny Port and some toasted hazelnuts.”
Tasting Wine & Cheese is expertly written, loaded with information presented in consumable bites and beautifully illustrated. Anyone fortunate enough to get this for as a holiday gift will pause from reading it only long enough to head to the store to buy several different cheeses.
- Tasting Wine & Cheese by Adam Centamore, $25. Published by Quarry Books, 160 pages, flexibound.