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How to have a Cheese and Wine Tasting!

Did you ever hear the saying, when in Rome do as the Romans do? Well not far from this saying is the concept that food and wines from the same region taste good together. Simply put, a little sausage and beer in Munich, Beef on Weck and a cola in Buffalo or Dumplings and Tea in Hong Kong are tastes to behold. The same goes for cheese and wine! In our tasting Good Cooking has paired cheese types and wine types of different regions of France. Although some of the wines are actually made in the USA, the grape variety is exactly the same as the wine would be in the specific region of France. The tasting of regional foods lets you experience the "terroir": the flavor of the earth and the culture of the land. Enjoy!

Good Cooking recommends the following French cheeses, wines and accompaniments for a tasting. There is enough for about 10 people which translates to about $20 (US) per person.

For your Tasting:
Goat Cheese Logs
Goat Cheese Log, 8 ounce piece
Explorateur Cheese
Explorateur, 1 or 2 rounds/piece
Compte Cheese from France
Comte, 20 ounce piece
French Reblochon Cheese
Reblochon, 1 pound or 1 small wheel
French Roquefort Cheese
Roquefort, 1 pound
Sancere Wine from the Loire
1 bottle Sancerre, Pascal Jolivet Sancerre
California Chardonnay Wine
1 bottle Chardonnay, Chateau St. Jean Sonoma Valley
Wild Horse Pinot Noir
1 bottle Wild Horse Pinot Noir
Guigal Cotes du Rhone Wine
1 bottle Cotes du Rhone, Etienne Guigal
Quady Late Harvest Muscat Wine
1 bottle Late Harvest Wine, Quady Orange Muscat
Stoned Wheat Thin Crackers
Stoned Wheat Thins, 1 box
Granny Smith Apple
Granny Smith Apple, 1 apple
Sliced Ripe Peaches
Ripe Peach, 1 peach
Walnut Halves
Walnut Halves, 1/2 cup walnuts
Michigan Dried Cherries
Dried Cherries, 1/2 cup
Bosc Pear
Bosc Pears, 1 pear
A picture of Baguettes
French Bread - 1 loaf
H20 Spring Water

There is enough cheese and wine for about 8-10 people.

The purpose is to eat and drink the cheese and wine from a specific region of France. You can't go wrong with regional food and wine! In my examples you will see how the wine complements the cheese and how the cheese does the same for the wine. You will be tasting the "terroir" the flavors of the earth where the foods came from, the culture and region and the essence of country life.

Once your platter is assembled and the cheese is just coming to about 60 degrees F. and wine, if white, is chilled to about 42 degrees F. and the red is at about 58 degrees F. you will be ready! Don't forget to save the cheese name so your guests knows what's what.

About the cheese:

Comte is a cow's milk cheese that has a dusty-brown rind and a pale creamy yellow interior. The texture is relatively hard and chewy, the taste is mild and slightly tangy, slightly sweet, and with the flavor of straw and nuts.

Explorateur is a cow's milk cheese and is classified as a triple-cream cheese, about 65% butterfat. The rind is soft like a young Brie. It has cream and butter flavors that are flavorful and pungent, not milky and mild, yet it is sweet and ever so slightly tangy.

Reblochon is a cow's milk cheese that has a creamy, softer-than-Brie texture; a nutty after taste; and a strong herbal aroma that is not for the timid. This is a stinky cheese. It has a rubbery off tan rind that is sometimes wet from age and a little ammoniated.

Chevre is a goat's milk cheese that is mild and creamy with a sweet flavor that plays off the acidity in the cheese which is almost green apple tart. Because it is usually eaten young there is no rind. When older, the cheese is dry and firm with a slightly sharp and lightly acidic flavor.

Roquefort is a sheep's milk cheese that is foil wrapped and doesn't really have a crust. Its taste is sweet with salty pungent mold flavors and mild acidic taste that is is complex, creamy and soft.

About the wine:

Jolivet Sancerre , It has a whitish straw in color. The nose is very fresh, with a hint of of lime, green herbs and black currant muskiness. On the palate it is fresh with light acidity and has subtle residual sugar that makes it racy and youthful. Overall, a dry and elegant wine that is well balanced.

Ch. St. Jean Chardonnay , It has aromas of lemon, pear and jasmine along with a touch of toasty vanilla. It's refreshing and balanced. The wine has vibrant acidity with pleasing flavors of pear that lead to a clean finish.

Wild Horse Pinot Noir . has aromas of seasoned wood, rose petals,
dried cherry, and light cedar. Flavors of plums, cherries, pomegranate, soy sauce and has a rich lingering flavor in the mouth.

Guigal Cotes du Rhone , Full-bodied, with a deep ruby/purple color and sweet notes of blackberry fruit, a hint of tar, and some pepper, the wine is dense, chewy, ripe, and a surprisingly big mouthful of juicy, velvety-textured wine. Made from 50% Syrah and 50% Grenache grapes.

Quady Essensia , From 100% Orange Muscat grapes it has an aroma reminiscent of Orange Blossom and Apricots. It has a lingering refreshing aftertaste with spicy clove and hints of honey. The Orange Muscat grape variety is in very limited production.

Some rules:

You will need a clean glass for each wine, so after each taste, dump the wine out, rinse the glass with water. Pour an ounce or less of the next wine in the glass and swirl to clean out the water and then pour that out before pouring wine for the next cheese. You will lose less than a 1/4 cup of wine and it makes a big difference in the tasting. Of course you can use new glasses if you have that many!

Don't taste any wine prior to eating any cheese!

We will taste the cheese in order of strength of flavor.

Only taste one cheese and 1 wine at a time.

Each cheese has a fruit that goes with it.

Crackers can be used as a base and to spread the cheese on.

The bread and water are meant to cleanse the palate after each cheese.

Don't mix the cheese together on the plates and wipe the plate after each cheese.

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Tasting order with Cheese, fruit and wine:

1st. Goat Cheese - Apple - Sancerre
2nd. Explorateur - Peach - Chardonnay
3rd. Comte - Dried Cherry - Pinot Noir
4th. Reblochon - Walnut Halves - Cotes du Rhone
5th. Roquefort - Bosc Pears - Late Harvest Wine

How to taste:

Eat a small piece of bread and have a sip of water to clean your palate.

Take a piece of cheese about the amount of a tablespoon, piece of fruit designated for the cheese, a cracker and then pour about 2-3 ounces of wine in your glass.

First smell the cheese and then the piece of fruit. Next smell the wine---don't taste it!

Place a piece of cheese in your mouth along with a bit of fruit and slowly begin to chew it but don't swallow! After 2-3 chews, sip an ounce of wine and then mix the flavors in your mouth, finish chewing and then swallow. Take another taste in the same manner, this time really tasting the cheese and analyzing its flavor before sipping the wine. And when the wine is sipped analyze its flavor and then notice how the flavor of the cheese complements the wine and vice versa! This is the taste of le terroir, the region and the culture!

Then on to the next cheese and wine after you wipe your plate and clean and rinse your glass. Just as before the first cheese, eat some bread and drink some water to cleanse your palate.

Cheese and wine tasting notes:

Chevre is naturally a bit sharp tasting, so to balance it, a tart green apple is the perfect accompaniment. The little bit of sugar in the apple then complements the cheese and all together work very well with the crispness and green grassiness of the wine. Did you know that in France this cheese, wine and apples are produced and grown in the same general area---that is why they go so well together.

L'Explorateur Cheese is manufactured in the Ile-de-France region of France outside Paris and yet near Chablis. Some of France's best peaches are also grown in this area. Once again, cheese, fruit and wine from the area is our theme. The cheese is 75% butter fat and tastes of rich cream, so as not to destroy its flavor, think of the American favorite---Peaches and Cream, that's why the peaches. Chardonnay is the grape variety from which Chablis is made, the wine has mineral qualities, not too dry and often tasting of hints of vanilla, peaches and oak. The cheese complements the wine, the peaches complement the cheese and all together they taste deliciously creamy. The slight acidity of the wine cuts thru the rich butterfat of the cheese to bring out the luscious taste of the creamy cheese.

Comte's taste is mild, yet slightly tangy and slightly sweet. Noticeable flavors of straw, dry plums and a rich nuttiness. Many wines of the Burgundy region are made from the pinot noir grape. The red burgundies however are quite expensive, sometimes upwards of $450 a bottle! I have selected an American Pinot Noir in its place. It is just as good and this particular California Pinot Noir has won awards for its French Burgundy likeness. In the Franche-Comte, jelly making is a large industry and some of France's best confitures are made there, including black cherry conserves. The pinot noir has dried cherry, and light woody aromas along with the flavors of plums, cherries, pomegranate and a rich lingering spicy cherry flavor. The sweet flavor of the dried cherries softens the tangy nuttiness of the cheese while the cherry and oak flavors of the wine complement the nutty and slightly tangy taste of the cheese. In all, the pinot noir 's flavors linger in the mouth just as long as the cheeses flavor does, together they act as a foil for the cherries.

Reblochon has a rich nutty and soft straw taste with the smoothness of rich cream. Its strong aroma is often described as a barnyard smell: this is a stinky cheese. Its full-bodied flavor of aged cream is rich and complex and the taste is so much better that what you would expect from the smell. It is produced in the Rhone-Alpes region of France, so what better wine to have than a Cotes du Rhone with sweet notes of blackberry fruit, a hint of tar, and some pepper flavors. Since this cheese is dense, chewy and ripe, a big mouthful of juicy, velvety-textured wine is a perfect complement. Add the walnuts of the region and we see how the nuts complement the cheese's bold richness and then how of the wine smoothes the slight bitter flavor of the nuts. In turn the the wine's blackberry flavors and peppery taste equals the robust richness of the cheese.

Roquefort's taste is sweet with salty pungent mold flavors and mildly acidic taste that is is complex, creamy yet crumbly and soft. The sharp saltiness the cheese possesses is mellowed by the sugary sweet flavors of the pear and the sweet and spicy Orange Muscat's orange blossom aromas soften the smell of the cheese. The Muscat's sweetness quells the salty pungent cheese flavors. Hints of honey in the wine complement the natural light honey flavors of the Bosc pears, which are grown in the region. A Sauterne wine from the same region would be a fantastic accompaniment, but at sometimes more than $150 a bottle, Good Cooking needed to find a compatible style wine to replace it. The Quady Essencia is the perfect match at about 1/10th of the price!