One of my favorite activities is to plan a wine and cheese gathering. Last week I travelled to my local cheese maker, Golden Ears Cheese in Maple Ridge to purchase some cheese for a tasting. When I thought about matching wines it occurred to me that there is a lot of information on the web regarding ideal matches but because they are typically from the US or Europe they feature suggestions that are not easily available here in British Columbia.
To assist fellow British Columbians I have created wine and cheese selections that are widely bought at most grocery stores and local wine shops. After all it’s very frustrating to have a list and find that most are not available with 100 kilometres of your home.
There are four basic categories of cheese and so I will recommend the cheeses in those categories and the matching wines that are easily purchased:
Soft cheeses: These include goat cheese, camembert and brie which are the perfect foil for Sauvignon Blanc, a lightly oaked Chardonnay or a refreshing Prosecco.
Semi-soft cheeses: Cheeses in this style include popular selections such as Swiss, Colby, Fontina and Havarti. Riesling, Pinot Grigio and sparkling wines like Spanish Cava and German Sekt are value driven wines that will deliver great taste.
Semi-hard cheeses: favorites like Cheddar, Sonoma Jack, Gouda and Blue reside in this category. Look to reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chianti Reserva or Ruby Port to impress guests at your next gathering.
Hard cheeses: Gruyere (look for the Swiss version), Edam, Manchego and Asiago pair well with Sauvignon Blanc (yes, a white wine!), Rote du Rhone (a value blended French wine) and Rioja from Spain.
These selections will make it easy and fun to plan your next soirée and as a note many of these grape varietal wines and cheeses are crafted right here in our own province. More reason to shop and buy local this summer! Wine and cheese tastings at BC Uncorked Wine Festival. Visit bcuncorked.ca
Robert Mondavi invited me to Oakville in the Napa Valley in 1997. I will never forget the experience because of the subjects we talked about; life, good food and of course wine.
One of the events I attended was a dinner on the patio of Opus One. Although there were about 40 guests in attendance I managed to sit next to Robert during dinner. On the other side was his gracious and lovely wife Margrit.
During the four course dinner with magnums of rare Mondavi reserve vintages being poured freely by pairs of waiters he discussed the importance of family.
He was not bitter that his mother and brother sued him in court because he wanted to take their winery in another direction. He looked on life as a journey of discovery and a large part was the enjoyment that good wine and food add to our lives.
I had thought that someone of his statue would be arrogant and superior but he was the opposite engaging, inclusive and sharing. Robert made me feel at home, like one of his family.
The message that Robert shared with me was love your family and your friends, enjoy good food and wine because life is too short to do otherwise.
That is something that I will always remember.
(Robert Mondavi passed away in 2008 at the ripe old age of 93)
There are a few easy tips learned over years of attending wine tastings that I would like to share with you. These will increase your enjoyment of the event and signal you as a serious wine lover instead of purely a wine drinker.
Number one, learn a few wine terms and use them with the wine vendor who is generally very knowledgeable about their wines and wines in general. Words such as finish, aroma, body and rounded will not only give you the basics but let’s face it, they sound pretty good and you will stand out among the other wine tasters as a serious wine dude or dudette.
When you speak the language, wine vendors will take the time out to taste you on their better wines because you will appreciate them. Others with their empty glasses held out not caring if it is red or white will get a cursory sample of whatever.
Once you are curious about the grapes, where the vineyards are located and any cool stories about the winery, you respect the wine, after all a group of people have spent years of hard work crafting the wine you are drinking.
Lastly have a tasting strategy, you will not be able to sample over 100 different wines, so pick the types you enjoy, red or white, Chardonnay, Merlot or Syrah it doesn’t matter as long as it appeals to you. If you are drinking whites and reds make sure you try the lighter whites before the reds otherwise the strong flavors of the reds will overwhelm the delicate whites.
There you have it, a few tips to make you a better wine taster and have a better wine experience.
To try out your new found tasting skills visit www.bcuncorked.ca