Last Thanksgiving I followed the advice of the wine manager at Whole Foods and bought a Loosen Brothers Riesling to drink with our roast turkey. It was a good wine, consistently interesting, which is perhaps why it was recommended to accompany a meal that could become too traditional and boring. However I found it to be too sweet for my taste, almost distracting to the meal. I found myself reluctant to pull the bottle out of the fridge.
Because I was also reading Janet Fletcher's Cheese and Wine, I saw that she recommends a sweet wine to be paired with gorgonzola. I decided to put her advice to the test, and returned to Whole Foods and bought two styles of that strongly flavored blue cheese: A gorgonzola "dulce", a "sweeter" and very soft, mild gorgonzola that spreads like a brie, and a hardy "picante" gorgonzola, riddled with blue veins and cut into the traditional wedge shape.
When we went to taste the cheeses, I realized that these represented two extremes of flavor, from the relatively mild to the very robust, almost over-ripe and intensely flavored, sharp gorgonzola. Then I sipped the Riesling, and sure enough, the wine had an amazing ability to knock the hard edges off the cheese and enhance the rich undertones of flavor. The bonus was that the flavor of the wine was improved too, such that it's sweetness and acidity were even more nicely balanced.
Just to round out our gorgonzola and wine taste test, I pulled out a red wine--a nice malbec from Argentina that I enjoy--and poured a taste to try with the cheeses.
Blech!!!! It was revolting. Really. I had to taste a few different things to get that flavor out of my mouth. That effectively ended the tastings for the day!
Lesson learned: pairing wine and cheese is more than an art, in some cases it is self defense for your taste buds!
What else to do with such an intense gorgonzola, I wondered? I bought a steak and planned to make a blue cheese sauce to accompany it, but that meal came and went without the sauce. (Life got busy). My son Ethan won't mind another opportunity to eat steak. I also bought some beets to roast and serve with crumbled gorgonzola, which is one of my favorite ways to eat it.
This is what I find to be so much fun: A food or wine can instigate a whole series of explorations in food that go well beyond the original serving idea. I like that a lot. It also makes me want to invite friends over and try new things with me. (Things I have tested and know will be good!)
I've been thinking of getting rid of the covered cake plate I bought at a thrift store lately, because it's awkward to store and I don't serve cake or cookies all that often. However, now that I am exploring food and wine pairings, I realize it makes a great cheese server, and it has earned its way back into my limited cupboard space. So even my dishware is getting more life. Sweet!