Long-awaited wine and cheese tasting is Thursday night
By By Stan Torgerson
March 27, 2002
The cheese has been selected, purchased and brought to Meridian for Thursday night's wine and cheese tasting. The wine has been carefully chosen and it, too, has arrived. Everything is ready.
As regular readers know, I have been somewhat critical of the run-of-the-mill wine and cheese tastings in our city.
Most of them do nothing more or less than buy some yellow and white cheese at the supermarket, cut it into cubes, place a small container of round toothpicks nearby, open a few bottles of inexpensive red and equally inexpensive white wines and promote it as a special event which of course, other than the cause which generated the evening, it is not.
This tasting does not fit that description in any way. Here's what those who attend can expect.
There will be six imported cheeses served, five from France and one from England. To the best of my knowledge, none are available in Meridian and never have been. We have paired them with appropriate wines from Spain, New Zealand, France, Australia and Portugal. All will be served on Bremner wafers, the best cracker to accompany fine wines and cheese.
Here is the lineup, in the planned order:
1. St. Andre, France: Named for its producer, St. Andre Creamery in France, this amazingly rich and creamy cheese is made from fresh cow's milk and enriched with pure cream. Its flavor is rich and buttery due to the addition of sweet cream during the cheese-making process. It is one of the wonderful French Triple Cream cheeses, meaning its butterfat content is at least 75 percent.
The wine paired with the St. Andre is the Montsarra Cara Brut sparkling wine from Spain.
2. Explorateur, France: Also a triple cream cheese with at least 75 percent butterfat. Keep in mind that butter typically has about 80 percent butterfat. This is a very rich cheese. As it ages, the interior goes from a firm, pristine white to a runny, yellow to beige mass and the flavor intensifies. This cheese was ordered by the cheese store in New Orleans especially for this tasting and should be on the younger side.
Its wine companion will be a lovely New Zealand chardonnay called Sacred Hill Rifleman.
3. Reblochon, France: This exquisite aromatic cheese is a relatively rare find in the United States so take advantage of it while you can.
The raw milk for Reblochon is taken from three different breeds of cows which graze in the Avarais Mountain range and are milked in the height of the summer. This puts the cheese in season in the winter months. The product is aged in a cellar or cave, where it is turned every two days and washed with brine or whey to speed the aging process. The cheese itself has a creamy, softer-than-brie texture, a nutty aftertaste and a strong herbal aroma that is not for the timid.
The wine selected is a lovely pinot noir burgundy produced by famed winemaker Au Bon Climat.
4. Sainte Maure, France: This is a goat cheese, aged and formed into logs. The rind is edible and has a beautifully textured appearance. The grassy overtones of the goat's milk creates a soft, marvelously flavored cheese that wowed the three of us who went to New Orleans to personally select the cheese for this tasting. The Sainte Maure goat cheese is really something special.
A lot of thought went into the pairing for this cheese. We finally selected a wine from the Cote Rotie area in Northern France. The wine is rich and concentrated and produced by Guy Bernard, one of the best winemakers in the region.
5. Montgomery Cheddar, England: Cheddar was invented in Somerset England in the 15th century on a dairy farm near Cheddar Gorge. It was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I and one of the gastronomic delights of the court.
Clive Coates, one of the world's foremost wine writers and critics refuses to do a tasting without having the Montgomery cheddar present to accompany the wines he plans to present. This is a white cheddar, a hard cheese unlike those scheduled earlier in the evening. It has been properly aged and is, therefore, full-flavored. Do not expect the mild American-type chewy cheddar. This has a personality of its own.
We reached down to Australia for the wine match to this English cheese. Our choice was the Hardy cabernet sauvignon from our favorite wine producing area in that country, the Coonawarra Valley. This is a 1994, so it is the proper age to complement the cheese. "The Wine Spectator" rated the Hardy cab an 88 and listed it as one of its Highly Recommended wines.
6. Roquefort Carles, France: This is the biggest, most flavor-intense roquefort (and the most wonderful) I have ever tasted.
Roquefort is the ancient blue cheese from the Rouergue, an area of southern France near Spain. It is made from raw sheep's milk as opposed to cow's milk, and aged in the caves of Cambalou for at least three months. The Roquefort Association protects the quality of Roquefort and marks all genuine Roqueforts with a red sheep seal. This cheese carries the seal on its foil-like outer packaging.
The French eat Roquefort for dessert, unlike Americans who use it principally for salads. We are treating it as the French do and are pairing it with a 1994 Port wine from Portugal. This is no shot in the dark. We tested the two together and the marriage was marvelous. This will probably be a controversial choice, but we stand by it.
We bought enough cheese to create a few extra seats for the tasting. If you are interested in attending, please call 482-0930 tonight or Thursday to make your reservation. The tasting will be held at Northwood Country Club and will start at 6:30 as usual. You do not have to be a member of the country club to attend.
In our opinion, this is what a wine and cheese tasting should be about rare and unusual cheeses, paired with wines which enhance their flavors. We certainly tried to make it that way. You be the judge.