Spanish Wine and Cheese combinations
I was fortunate to be invited again to participate in a river cruise built specifically around the pairing of wines and cheeses, this time Spanish wines and cheeses. The event was promoted by Grapenuts (www.grapenuts.org), a group in which I have been involved for many years with John Mahood, and David Bennett, possibly the most enthusiastic cheese expert in our fair city. Our floating platform for the cruise was the “Fantasy” Yacht which is a fine platform for our purposes – plenty of tables for seated tasting, the walls wrapped by waist to ceiling windows stretching from bow to stern, with the added bonus of an upper deck which could be accessed for even better views of the sunset over the city. Guests were treated to four hand-picked cheeses all distinctly different, matched to four complimentary wines – two whites: an effervescent Cava, and a Verdejo, followed by two reds: a Tempranillo and an old vine Garnacha. Below are notes on the cheeses (from David Bennett) and the wines.. Maybe our readers would like to try a cheese/wine combination and let us know the result?
Garrotxa cheese – goat’s milk cheese from the Catalonia region of northern Spain. The color of is snow-white and it has a moist, almost flaky texture that melts easily on your tongue. Garrotxa is mildly herbal and tangy with a marvelous nutty aftertaste. Pairs well with a crisp Cava. Paired with Cristalino – Cava Brut NV Subtle aromas of apple, spices, flowers and nuts. Dry, with fine acidity and floral notes, backed by apple flavors and slight nutty-ness. Finishes very dry and taught. This is a fresh, clean sparkler that pairs well with starter foods or simply as a starter on its own.
Mahón – from the island of Menorca, is one of a few cow’s milk cheeses from Spain. Mahón has unique lemony flavor that evokes a rural Mediterranean seascape. The rind is rubbed with olive oil mixed with paprika, which gives the cheese its distinctive orange color. Paired with Marquis de Riscal – Rueda 2009 A superb example of Verdejo varietal wine with a mixture of tropical fruit aromas and hints of fennel and grassiness. Light to medium bodied with a slight final bitterness which is characteristic of these wines, flavors open as the wine warms in the glass.
Zamorano – sheep’s milk cheese made in Zamora, Spain. This is a hard cheese which is aged about 6 months. The wonderful flavor is attributed to the breed of small scruffy Churra and Castellana sheep. Think Manchego, but with more character and flavor. Paired with Campo Viejo Crianza Tempranillo – Rioja 2006 Light to medium bodied, this wine is a wonderful, yet affordable, all-purpose red food wine. The nose has a red berry sense to it, while the flavors are a nice mix of red fruits, vanilla and oak (from 12 months of barrel aging. This wine has some structure, but not overly so as all elements are in balance, even though generally a light wine. Considering that this wine is made in great quantity, the quality is very high.
Cabrales – Hands down, the world’s best cheese, a blue cheese made in the eastern Asturias. Wrapped in Sycamore Maple leaves and aged in limestone caves. Made with raw cow’s milk, also mixed with goat’s and ewe’s milks in the spring and summer. Really perfect to try with big red or dessert wine. Evodia Garnacha 2008 The Garnacha vines for this wine were planted at high altitude (2500-4000ft) long ago and some are now more than 100 yrs old. The resulting wine is dark purple colored with spicy nose followed by dense, red berry and smoky flavors and intense finish. A great value Garnacha – Big fruit, big flavor, big wine!