Paired Up

Pairing cheeses with wines can be pretty tricky. You’ll either have a pretty mild wine that doesn’t create a very interesting pairing, or you’ll find at least one of the cheeses does not go well with at least one of the wines. Moreover, the flavors of cheeses can interfere with each other, resulting in a confusion of flavors on the palate. In the interest and tradition of experimentation, I decided to test a single cheese with several wines to home in on some perfect pairings.

The experiment turned into a sort of online dating service for wines and cheeses: The tasting notes of the wines matched well with the flavors of the cheese in theory, but when the big date rolled around, it was Rougette Roulette.

Here’s the dance card:

Rougette Bavarian Red 

Luscious, very buttery, slightly sweet. The bloomy, reddish rind has a slight pungent aroma, and a tanginess when incorporated into a tasting. Make sure it is fully ripened when pairing, and bring it to room temperature to let it open up. This is a decadent cheese.

The Wines:

Mount Eden Chardonnay, Wolff Vineyard 2009

SOLO: Smoky and buttery finishing with tropical fruit. Acidity forward, but then rounded by creamy texture. A wonderful wine, with a surprising flavor for a California Chardonnay.

PAIRED: Hi Butter, meet Butter. The similarities in flavor here bring the butter flavor straight forward, though the smokiness of the Chardonnay does just linger for a moment with the Rougette. A great pairing, but not a particularly complex match.

Chateau de Manissy Tavel Rosé 2011

SOLO: Gorgeous in color; rosy nose; strawberry, cherry, and cranberry in a flower garden. I really wanted to like this wine, but was not a fan.

PAIRED: Admittedly, this was a bit of a shot in the dark, but it was just Rosé season. Plus, the tasting notes screamed “Strawberry!” which is a favorite fruit pairing with Rougette. Unfortunately, the tasting notes should have mentioned that cranberry (dry, bitter, wintery cranberry) runs forward, turning the taste medicinal in its bitterness, and squashing any thought of summer strawberry. Perhaps, psychologically, it was the seasonal change of summer to autumn, but I ended up thinking of Thanksgiving—buttery potatoes meets cranberry sauce—the bitter/sweet/buttery memory of holidays gone by. I am tempted instead to try this wine with Cambozola Black Label, which I think could be a nice match.

Marietta Cellars Old Vine Red Lot Number 57

SOLO: Cherry and raspberries forward, acidic in structure, slight spiciness. Not bad, but not a wine that I could enjoy all on its own. This wine requires food to soften it.

PAIRED: Rougette makes this young wine look good. This wine on its own is unremarkable, but Rougette brings it up several notches. The butteriness of the cheese rounds out the edges of the wine’s acidity. This cheese is a challenge to pair with many reds, and after striking out with a few zinfandels, and a spicy, but bitter Côtes du Rhône, this was the winner of the reds. Unless your explorations reveal a complex matching (and do let me know), whites are the general rule of thumb for Rougette.

Valckenberg Gewürztraminer 2011

SOLO: Floral aroma, peachiness. Delicious on its own.

PAIRED: Rougette diminished the fruitiness of the wine, though the peach was still strong. Interestingly, the combination of the butter texture of the cheese and fruitiness of the the wine created a slightly salty flavor on the palate. A good match.

Thousand Islands Winery Gewürtztraminer 2011

SOLO: Floral aroma. Mango, apricot flavor, but totally unremarkable in character otherwise.

PAIRED: Woah, woah, woah. Hold that thought. Rougette was made for THIS wine. The buttery flavor and slight bitterness from the rind of Rougette mingle with the mango and apricot, bringing forward the fruit flavor. The butter and fruits together merge into a rich, fruit sweetness of a homemade summer tart. Truly delicious.

Duval-Leroy Brut Champagne

SOLO: Fruity, green apple, very dry.

PAIRED: Surprise! This one was on my list of anticipated misses, for the green apple and dry characteristics, but I thought, I must showcase a champagne. This one is a complex matching. The combination doesn’t push the flavors of one over another, but instead creates a new flavor, nutty—almost macadamia-like in taste. This one makes me keep coming back to explore. An interesting match, worth experimenting with—both with this cheese, and other dishes.

Quinto de Infantado Tawny Port

SOLO: Incredibly rich, tasting of hazelnuts, and ending with a slowly dissipating sweetness.

PAIRED: The alcohol content of this port cut like a knife throughout the coating of Rougette on the tongue and then allowed the flavors of both to mingle. It has heat, but hangs low in the throat rather than forward on the tongue, allowing the flavors of both the cheese and the port to converse. Rich, meet Rich. A lovely pairing.