Wine and cheese tastings have become non-stop trendy happenings these days, whether it’s during a simple family meal or fancy events in town like the opening of an art gallery or a corporate soiree. In honor of Shavuot, we will explain the intricacies of the wine and cheese trend.
Most of us have become familiar with this delectable tasting experience of having wine with cheese. But where did this association originate? How come it has become such a popular trend? And how does it even work together?
Indeed, a quality wine is totally self-sufficient and a good cheese does not need any wine to go with it. Nevertheless, matching cheese and wine seems pretty natural and easy, quite essential even to any wine lover or cheese connoisseur.
For Jews who do not mix meat and milk at the same meal, there might be fewer opportunities to savor cheese and wine during the main meals and holidays meals.
For many, Shavuot stands as the exception as the holiday celebrating the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai traditionally involves a dairy meal, replete with a range of quality, exquisite cheesecakes, cheese blintzes and other dairy delicacies.
This is why we thought that Shavuot was the perfect occasion to try and explain the intricacies of the wine and cheese trend. After a bit of research, we found that the cheese and wine trend started as a custom as far back as the 15th century and maybe even a bit before then.
Traditionally, cheese was always served with red wine. In ancient times, there were no bottles so wine was kept in barrels. People drank the product of the most recent harvest and wine was hardly aged for more than one year. As a result, red wines were light, low in tannins and in alcohol content. They were an excellent match with cheeses. Those wines more closely resembled what is known today as white and/or rose wine.
Even today, sommeliers and wine experts still agree, what goes best with cheese is a wine with no tannins and with some acidity.
The difference today is that with the development of sophisticated wine-making techniques and processes, red wine became richer and more tannic. This entails a chemical reaction: the tannins in the red wine are hardened by the cheese fat and can make the wine taste quite ‘metallic.’
Thus, most of the time, the best match with cheeses is actually a white wine, which is naturally lower in tannins and acidic. Acidity is pleasant and rinses away cheese fat.
To know which wine to choose, the sagest advice is always to pick a wine emanating from the same region as the cheese does.
The cheese texture also has to be taken into account.
Soft cheeses like brie, camembert, feta or bulgarit (in Israel) go best with aromatic dry white wines that have a fruity character. Gamla Chardonnay, Yarden Viognier and Galil Avivim all are excellent matches for such cheeses.
The high proportion of fatty acids in goat’s milk gives goat cheeses a tart flavor, which pairs well with a refreshing dry white wine. If you are in the Land of Israel, you can try Tzefat (Safed) cheese, originally made with sheep’s milk. You will enjoy these types of cheeses with a glass of Yarden Sauvignon Blanc, Galil Sauvignon Blanc or Mount Hermon White.
With goat cheese, Gamla Brut is the perfect match and will for sure put everyone in a festive mood.
Blue cheeses tend to have a sharp and salty character, a crumbly texture and a strong smell. Paradoxically the most suitable types of wine for blue cheeses are sweet wines or dessert wines. If you want to make the most of them, do yourself a favor and relish a glass of Yarden Muscat, Yarden Heightswine or even Yarden Gewurztraminer.
Hard cheeses have a very strong, compacted, salty flavor, which pairs well with an aromatic, complex and easily drinkable wine such as Yarden Blanc de Blancs. That same wine is equally delicious with a cheese soufflé.
Red wine lovers shouldn’t worry as cheese can still be savored with red wine, provided it is a supple and acidic red wine.
Hard cheeses such gruyère and emmental pair wonderfully with Galil Mountain Pinot Noir. Very hard cheeses like parmesan and pecorino go perfectly with red wines such as Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon and Yarden Merlot.
Whichever wine you choose to match your dairy delicacies and enhance your holiday celebrations, make sure you enhance Shavuot’s special blessings with wines and cheeses from the Land of Israel.