How to Pair Cheese and Orange Wine | culture: the word on cheese
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How to Pair Cheese and Orange Wine

When Paired With Cheese, Orange Wine Breaks the Mold

If rosé is the most popular girl in school, then orange wine is her edgy sister—the one that’s effortlessly cool, smart, and probably wore low-rise jeans before they came back into fashion. Orange wines are skin-contact, minimal-intervention bottles made from the same grapes as whites but are produced like reds. White grapes are pressed for their juice, then the juice is set to ferment as it mixes and mingles with the grape’s seeds and skins, giving it a little body and bitterness. The longer the skins and juice macerate, the more amber the wine’s hue.

Though orange wines have been sipped for over 5,000 years, hailing from what is now the country of Georgia, they’ve recently cropped up on wine lists and crept into the vocabularies of even layman imbibers. Orange wines range in flavor from funky to tannic to tropical to floral, so it’s natural for the cheeses that pair well with them to be just as varied. “For cheese and wine specifically, we are always seeking out what we call a ‘grows with, goes with,’” says Colin McKee, store manager and wine buyer at Charleston, South Carolina’s goat. sheep. cow. “Orange wine is special, and a little tricky in that regard, so we found ourselves breaking the mold a bit and trying pairings that might not normally be considered.” McKee and his team tested 33 different cheeses to find those that “complete the flavor wheel” and bring out the best in these often-biodynamic bottles (even those with kookier notes, such as graphite).

“We had a lot of fun with this first pairing,” says McKee. “The Gulp Hablo Orange is rich and aromatic, with notes of orange peel and dried apricots. We needed something to stand up to that wine.” This fudgy cow’s milk blue cheese from Italy rivals the Spanish wine in richness, packing a punch with sweet floral notes (attributed to the wheel getting soaked in Moscato) and a pop of salt. Also not to be missed: the sweetness and zest from the cheese’s generous rind of candied orange peel.

While the first pairing doubled down on richness, this one— featuring a Slovenian wine that McKee describes as “racy” and “linear”—is all about balance. The semi-firm, yet creamy sheep’s milk cheese from Spain is hand- rubbed in lard and rolled in fragrant rosemary, which tempers the dry wine’s minerality and plays well with its hints of herbs and graphite. “Romao also benefited from a racier wine,” says the expert. “It keeps its palate texture lighter, and its rosemary rind was amplified.”

Keeping with his “grows with, goes with” mantra, McKee says this pairing of German wine with Swiss Gruyère was the favorite of the bunch. “The wine is delicate with hints of orange blossom, green grass, and lime peels,” he says. “The Gruyère we paired has just enough salty crystals to make the wine pop—and the strong onion palate that often is associated with Gruyère was sweetened by the wine.”

The punnily named Ewephoria cheese—a sheep’s milk gouda from the Netherlands—brings rich notes of butterscotch and caramel to the party. And this staff-favorite California wine ups the ante, adding complexity with a lovely nose bursting with juicy stone fruit and a hint of minerality. The pour is just kissed with an orange hue, since it sees only seven to nine days of skin contact, and boasts a satisfying weighted palate. Pro tip from McKee: pair this duo with Francis Miot Pear Caramel Jam for a “luscious” trifecta.

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