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.
On a drizzly fall evening, Stephanie, Eilis, and I schlepped through Cambridge to visit central bottle wine + provisions, and let me tell you, it was worth braving the weather.
After a brief tour of the facilities, we were entertained with three separate wine and cheese pairings. Cabra La Mancha, an aged goat’s milk cheese with an unbelievable texture, was paired with a 2011 Muscadet. My favorite cheese of the three, the buttery and luscious Kind of Blue from Woodcock Farms, was paired with a sweet 2005 Vouvray. Finally, a garlicky, creamy Fromage Fort made from cheese odds and ends topped a soft baguette, and was paired with a 2011 Lagrein Rosé.
USE YOUR TONGUE!
That was the message that was first given by Valerie Henbest, cheese importer (or “Fromage Air”) for Smelly Cheese, in Adelaide, South Australia. Valerie is also a passionate cheese educator and eater, originally from Normandy, France and now an Aussie-Franco mix. With a great accent, I might add, and a life pulse that’s infectious.
Last week, I attended a Bubbles & Cheese Master Class taught by my friend Natalie Fryar, who makes Jansz Australia (Tasmanian sparkling wine) and Valerie Henbest at the Smelly Cheese headquarters in Adelaide. After a tour of the aging room, 20+ of us sat down to bubbles and cheese…but the first order of business was to think about what we were tasting, an exercise that never, ever gets old.
Although I’m a Leo, I really despise being the center of attention. Like, really despise it. I take-an-F-on-a-presentation-so-I-don’t-have-to-speak-in-front-of-the-class despise it. So, it’s easy to understand why I haven’t had a traditional birthday party in over ten years. Don’t get me wrong; I like celebrating my birthday (i.e. I like free stuff), but anyone, even people I love, singing a bizarre, repetitive children’s song makes me want to scamper upstairs and hide under the bed like a dog frightened of thunder.
I'm munching a Trader Joe's cheddar CheeseStick and reading Eric Asimov's article on The Pour (NYT) about tasting 18 Bordeauxs from the magic year of 1982; made so by the perfect storm of Robert Parker's enthusiasm for the vintage, a new parched public eager to learn about wine, and changes in Bordeaux economics that would sweep away sleepy local wine production in France...or so I have recently read!
The wines are 30 years old, and according to those who know, a club you can tell I am not a member of, they are now "in their prime." They have been stashed in a collector's wine cellar, enriching their "opulence" and gaining in value and fame.
I am sitting here at my laptop, thick curly white-girl ‘fro in a monstrous bun on top of my head and some ridiculous outfit that was an attempt at cuteness and comfort to beat the heat, and I can’t help but wonder... am I the Carrie Bradshaw of Cheese Blogging?
I have a fabulous home, more clothes and shoes than I know where to store, go to fabulous events with fabulous food and wine, write a column on my vices, and go through cheeses in an almost episodic rhythm. I am, however, currently going through a little “dry spell” (a.k.a. luxuries like wine and cheese are the first to go during an austerity period) and so my “column” is drying up as well. What would Carrie do for her hungry New Yorkers longing to read about her sexcapades at a time when there are no men in sight? Write about daily life, other kinds of love, weathering the blues, and good times with friends.
I have a rough, tough life. Aline Baly, whose family owns and operates Chateau Coutet, a 1er Grand Cru Classé Sauternes vineyards in Barsac, Bordeaux, France, dropped into the shop and opened up full bottles of their 1989, 1997, 2002 and 2003 vintages with the hopes of finding good pairings to accompany them. I was joined by cheese & food writer Janet Fletcher (who lives nearby in downtown Napa), Master Sommelier Peter Granoff, and my partner in cheeses & monger extraordinaire at our Oxbow cheese shop, Ricardo Huijon. Needless to say, it wasn't one of our hardest days on the job...