The other week we hosted a little wine and cheese night.
The is a nice little cheese spread put together from Andrew’s Cheese Shop. I’ll discuss the cheese itself in a bit, but on the right are various artisanal crackers and on the left: honey, dried figs, olives, cornichons, and quince paste.
I selected a small series of very interesting ascending wines and forced all 20 or so people to move through sequential small pours, even the occasional “I don’t like white” naysayer. But they were glad they tried them as these were all drinking in peak form.
2002 Gravner Breg Anfora Venezia Giulia IGT
Deep golden orange (or orange gold) in color. Big full nose dried orange, dry flowers, and honey. Palate is complex with orange rind, dry flowers, a bit of Pinot must, and what would be honey if the wine were sweet (which it is not). Full body and firm tannins with a finish of tea and brandy. An excellent example of Gravner’s OLD Old World philosophy!
1988 Joseph Drouhin Corton
The nose was medicinal, ethereal, and fragrant with hints of coffee, dill and rich dark fruit, more of the same on the palate, lovely mouth filling burgundy, medium finish
1998 Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Colonnello
Tanzer 93-95 points, “Medium red. Subdued but noble aromas of plum, smoke, marzipan, minerals and dried flowers. Sweet, silky and concentrated, with lovely vinosity giving the wine a highly aromatic quality in the mouth. Sappy and elegant; a distinctly feminine style of Barolo, with lovely brightness and sweet, broad tannins. Long on the palate.”
2001 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Parker 96, “Beaucastel has been on a terrific qualitative roll over the last four vintages, and the 2001 Chateauneuf du Pape (which Francois Perrin feels is similar to the 1990, although I don’t see that as of yet) is a 15,000-case blend of 30% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah, 10% Counoise, and the balance split among the other permitted varietals of the appellation. This inky/ruby/purple-colored cuvee offers a classic Beaucastel bouquet of new saddle leather, cigar smoke, roasted herbs, black truffles, underbrush, and blackberry as well as cherry fruit. It is a superb, earthy expression of this Mourvedre-dominated cuvee. Full-bodied and powerful.”
Monte Enebro is handmade in Avila, Spain, by legendary cheesemaker Rafael Baez and his daughter Paloma. The Baezs make their complex goat’s milk cheese from pasteurized milk and then inoculate the logs with the mold that is used to make Roquefort, adding to Monte Enebro’s complexity and distinctive appearance. It is creamy, lemony and slightly acidic; as it ages, the texture becomes denser and the flavor becomes more intense with a pungent finish. This award-winning cheese has proven to be a versatile pairing partner for many wines; it pairs exceptionally well with Chenin Blancs, Sauternes and sweeter sherries.
The Gubbeen Dairy makes effectively one cheese – Gubbeen. Like the Chateaux that produce just one wine from their land, their milk produces Gubbeen Cheese – the trick is what they do in the curing processes. Cheese vintages come from ageing plus the milk quality and the seasons.
The Gubbeen herd is out earlier than most Irish farms as they are influenced by the Gulf Stream bringing in warm winds and early grass. In the Summer their herd will be grazing the pasture and is out all night, coming home at 6.00 in the morning to be milked. During the winter weather the herd is in their main shed where they feed on silage produced here at Gubbeen with supplements of nuts that Tom chooses each year.
The tags for the next two cheeses are actually flipped. This is the Cave Aged Marisa.
A cave – aged beauty! This natural-rind variety gets its complex, sweet and slightly rambunctious flavors from open-air cave aging. Cave Aged Marisa has been a judges favorite and was awarded the prestigious “Best of Show” 1st Runner Up at the 2011 American Cheese Society and 1st Place at the 2012 World Championship Cheese Contest.
Maxx 365 is the elder brother of Scharfe Maxx 365 an Alpine cheese from Toggenburg, Switzerland. The first thing that sets it apart from other Swiss cheese is that it’s not made from part-skim, or even full fat raw milk; it’s actually classified as a double crème. This essentially means they add cream to the milk to increase the richness of the cheese. This is what gives Scharfe Maxx and Maxx365 their unrivaled richness and depth.
Époisses de Bourgogne is a cheese made in the village Époisses, which is in the département of Côte-d’Or in France. It is located around halfway between Dijon and Auxerre.
Commonly referred to as Époisses, it is a pungent unpasteurized cows-milk cheese. Smear-ripened (washed in marc de Bourgogne, the local pomace brandy), it is circular at around either 10cm or 18cm in diameter, with a distinctive soft red-orange colour. It is sold in a circular wooden box, and is best served with a good dark Trappist beer, or even Sauternes.
Napoleon was a particular fan of the cheese, and the famous epicure Brillat-Savarin himself classed it as the “king of all cheeses”.
Bleu du Bocage is an amazing treat for the taste buds. Packed with a variety of flavors, it is salty, milky, fruity and minerally and not overly “goaty” in any way. Assertive in taste, this blue is perfect for dessert with a fruity white wine.