When I first started working for a wine company, I knew absolutely nothing about wine beyond the fact that I liked to drink it. I had no formal education in wine and the extent of my experience with it was picking up the cheapest or prettiest + cheapest combination bottle in my local market. Like a lot of early wine drinkers, I couldn’t differentiate between varietals, wasn’t quite sure which wines pair with what foods and couldn’t appreciate any of the complexities that I now seek in my fermented grapes. While most of the people that work in our company don’t fall in the “wine snob” category, we still experience know-it-alls (or think they know-it-all) wine snobs at events and in meetings with buyers which makes the industry intimidating and honestly, annoying at times. My personal opinion is that wine is a subjective experience that is supposed to be fun and it’s supposed to be an experience. Certain wines will enhance certain flavors in certain foods, but learning it through experience rather than studying wine notes from a book is really what this industry should be all about. No two palates are the same and everyone is going to taste wine differently which is exactly what makes it so fun and personal.
This division of our company puts on wine tastings in the customer’s preferred setting of choice and while some of our reps have a ton of wine experience, many of them don’t and are eager to learn what to serve at their tastings and what favors are going to pair the best with each wine. Last month our focus was Chardonnay so I had some serious fun putting together a cheese plate and easy apps that would be delicious with Chard. I thought I’d pass it along just in case anyone is interested in learning more about what to pair with Chardonnay. Check it out below :-)
CREATING THE PERFECT CHARDONNAY CHEESE PLATE
When you think of a wine party, the most obvious food pairing is cheese. However, with Chardonnay, cheese isn’t always the easiest to pair with a varietal that has such incredible stylistic range. While some chardonnays are extremely fruity and citrusy, others are oaky and buttery which can compete with the creamy cheeses you might initially think to pair with a white wine. I explored a few different cheeses to find the best combination with our Chardonnay that offers a perfectly balanced profile of fruit and oak. As told by our Sommelier:
With most Chardonnays, you get some green apple, a little citrus, and depending on the producer either no or tons of oak and malolactic fermentation to give it that buttered popcorn style. Our Chardonnay undergoes an extremely cold, slow fermentation that extracts tons of tropical fruit character out of this wine. Scents of pineapple, banana, white peach and pear jump out of the glass at me when I pour it. It spends about six months in American oak, but only 20% new oak. The rest of the barrels are all 2-3 years old so it is more for a textural component rather than making the wine overly oaky. You get some notes of vanilla and toasted coconut, but it is definitely in balance with the fruit character of the wine.
CHEESE: I sought to find the best cheese to pair with our style Chardonnay and found a few favorites: Mt. Tam, a brie-style triple cream crafted by Cowgirl Creamery in California. Another favorite was Cabot’s Clothbound Cheddar which is nutty in flavor and has a similar consistency to parmesan while being much more mild to taste – perfect for our style Chardonnay. The two can be purchased in a set from Cowgirl Creamery that also includes and absolutely unbelievable Echo Mountain Blue Cheese (still delicious with our Chardonnay when drizzled in a little honey and perfect for the reds at your wine tasting tasting), or can be ordered individually as well. If you’re looking for less expensive options, both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s offer a wide variety of double-triple cream, brie and mild-medium cheddar cheeses that will be perfect for pairing with Chardonnay.
OTHER BITES TO INCLUDE: In my opinion, creating the perfect cheese plate is all about striking a balance between cheeses and other small bites that enhance the flavors of your wine. Some crackers and perhaps a loaf of fresh French Bread are key. The fig spread and honey found in both our Wine & Cheese Party and Cheese Party Packages are essential for getting that sweeter balance and will make cheeses like a tangy blue cheese more approachable for those who might not love an extra sharp cheese on its own. Figs are also particularly delicious with our Chardonnay and can be served with any cheese imaginable all the way from a creamy brie to an aged, extra sharp cheddar or parmesan. An artichoke spread (also found in both our Wine & Cheese Party and Cheese Party Packages) offers a savory yet citrusy touch while olive oil is a natural pairing and will give your guests something light to dip their bread in when they’ve indulged in enough cheese
PS: From a gorgeous marble cheese board to honey, olive oil, salami, cheese knives, and more, our Wine & Cheese Party and Cheese Party Packages offer a one stop shop for all of the goodies you will need to create the perfect wine and cheese party. Cheers!