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The Key To Pairing Wine And Cheese

Posted: 06/06/2012 6:06 pm

2012-06-03-winecheeseintro.pngI can't tell you how many times I've been asked to match wines with cheese. The funny thing is I never thought about cheeses, just cheese. I recently asked my friend and Snooth contributor Levi Dalton a similar question about pairing wine and cheese and his answer, while so amazingly obvious, surprised me.

Levi is a sommelier in New York and as such he is often asked to pair wines with cheese. With very few exceptions, Arpege in France was his example, cheese in a restaurant means a cheese plate, and pairing wines with an assortment of cheeses changes the equation entirely. In truth, that's probably what most people mean when they ask about cheese and wine pairings: not a specific recommendation for a particular cheese, but rather a wine that is flexible enough to pair with many cheeses!

And here I've been going on and on and specific pairings for years! I'll follow up this article with some specific pairings. After all, there does come a time when you have a bottle of wine open throughout a meal and you want to finish off the meal with the last of the bottles and just a bite of cheese. For today, let's take a look at wines that work with cheese in a more general sense, beginning with Levi's recommendation: Marsala.

Photo courtesy of Vincent Ma via Flickr/cc

Marsala
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When most people think of Marsala, they probably think of veal or chicken sauteed and then finished off with the slightly sweet Italian wine know as Marsala. That's certainly a valid and popular impression of what Marsala might be and one good use for it, but Marsala, like almost every wine, has a more generic example as well as some particularly exceptional bottlings.

Marsala is a fortified wine, similar to Sherry in many ways, in that it reaches its peak when carefully aged. The best examples often are vintage dated or are soleras (barrel aged wines of multiple vintages) that have ages of 10 or even 20 years noted on the label.

With this level of maturity, the generally delicate in nature Marsala becomes intensely flavored with notes of almonds, dates and figs. All of these are happy to pair with cheese, particularly ripe, well aged wash rind cheese, though their high acidity and relatively light body makes them particularly adept with a myriad of pairings.

Photo courtesy of madlyinlovewithlife via Flickr/cc
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