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The grape escape
June 2009
Much like the weather, our wine preferences change by the season.

During the summer months, because of higher temperatures, our palates crave crisp, cool, refreshing wines with less body and structure. Fruity is favored over woodsy, light over strong, lively over heavy.

These characteristics help us savor those fleeting summer moments and are perfect when paired with our featured recipes or a simple cheese platter.

Fresh Cheeses

With chèvre, consider light whites like Chenin Blanc from de Loire valley of France; Moscato D’Asti, Frascati from Italy, or Vino Verdhe from Portugal. Sauvignon Blanc is often chosen to accompany goat cheese, and for good reason: the wine’s zippy acidity complements the cheese’s tangy finish - a combination that’s both fresh and invigorating. Fruity light red wines, like beaujolais nouveau, are also great complements for the same reasons.

Soft-ripened Cheeses

Rich, creamy cheeses, like Brie or Suprême, deserve wines of an equally intense fruitiness, such as Vouvray or Riesling. For decadent triple creams - like St. André - dry, flavorful rosé wines from the south of France, like a Côtes de Provance, are an excellent choice. Bordeaux and Burgundy reds are also a great match for these creamy cheeses, as they harmonize the acidity levels. For those special occasions, sparkling wines also pair well with soft-ripened cheeses because of the wines’ natural acidity and thirst-quenching bubbles. Mix and match a variety - champagne, prosecco – with a selection of dense, delicate fromage.

Hard Cheeses

With tastes that range from understatedly sweet and mild, to seriously sharp and tangy, hard cheeses like Etorki or Gruyère beg for big, robust vinos. For milder cheeses, such as Morbier, Fol Epi, and Emmental, try either a Merlot, a Côtes du Rhône, or a Pomerol. For extra strong cheeses, like aged Comté, reach for Syrahs and Zinfandels, which have a full-bodied capability to complement the bold flavor. White wines from the Alsace Lorraine region are also a traditional pairing with hard-pressed cheeses, and create a refreshing combination.

Blue Cheeses

Quintessential blues Bleu d’Auvergne and Roquefort are some of the most versatile blue cheeses today. Both are sublime with a glass of port or sherry, but are arguably never better than with Sauternes. That goes for many cheese types, in fact, including cheeses with high sodium concentrations, like washed-rind and certain aged cow’s-milk cheeses. Because Sauternes are viscous and sugary, they’re best reserved for cheese types that can stand up to the wines’ natural sweetness - in this case, salty, bitey blue cheese.

Of course, there are other worthy summertime wines - Muscadet and Voivre from the Loire Valley, or a Gewürztraminer from Alsace all come to mind. But it’s the personal touches you add that make each summer one to remember. Don’t be afraid to give lighter red wines a slight chill (helps beat the heat!), or try tawny port over ice (as is fashionable in the town of Oporto) with a splash of soda water. C’est délicieux! Next month, we will explore pairing another summer favorite, beer, with cheese, so be sure to come back.