Wine Lexicon for Cheese Lovers
Here at the culture offices, we're excited about wine.
Some of you may know it; a wonderful, traditional beverage, it offers a whole world of taste sensations, and has a noble history of its own. But we sometimes feel like it lives in the shadow of its more illustrious pairing pairing partner, cheese. In an attempt to bring some light to wine's sometimes obscure world, we'd like to offer this introduction to some common wine terms, translated for the cheese enthusiast.
ABV: Approximate Butterfat Value. It's not a mark of quality—there are excellent low ABV Parmigiano wines and high ABV Brillat-Savarins—but it's a good gauge of how much you'll be able to consume and still get out of your chair at the end of the night.
Colors: This is sometimes confusing to cheeselovers, with yellow "whites", and purple "reds". Here's a handy breakdown.
red = cow
white = goat
rosé = sheep
orange = buffalo
Cork: Lacking the natural protection of a rind, wines are protected by organic or synthetic corks, which perform the same functions: keeping out undesireable microbes while allowing small amounts of gas to exchange with the outer atmosphere. This is an area where wine technology has surpassed cheesemaking, as screw-top cheese remains a largely experimental endeavor.
Grapes: the cow of the wine world. Grapes are small vine-growing berries, but like cows, they must be squeezed to extract their grape-milk. Grapes come in many varieties, from the Holstein-like Cabernet Sauvignon to exotic heritage breeds from as far away as Iran and Japan. Try them all and find your favorite!
Port: A classic triple-cream wine, where the where the ABV has been 'fortified' with the addition of concentrated grape-cream.
Terrior: identical to the well-known cheese phenomenon of the same name, terroir is the claim that unique local landscape and climatic conditions affect the flavor of the wine. Unlike cheese, however, the notion that wine has terroir remains largely unsupported by science.
Wine Regions: Frequently overlapping with famous cheese regions, winemaking reflects local cheese tastes. Burgundy's white wines pair perfectly with its eponymous Époisses de Bourgogne, and Jura's famous Comté has a perfect compliment with its vin jaune. In the US, Marin County's "cheese country" lies adjacent to the Sonoma and Nappa valleys, where locals have made wine-production a vital part of the local economy. Surprisingly, Vermont and Wisconsin's wine industries continue to struggle.
We hope you've enjoyed this brief introduction. As the wine people say, "Don't forget to drink wine while you eat cheese!"