Cheese with Specialty Wines

by Joseph Colosi

There’s no telling what can happen when we at Di Bruno’s feel thirsty after a hard day’s work. After one of those days, a few friends and coworkers from the ninth street location enjoyed two tasty white wines with intent to find the perfect pairing. In an effort to broadly address the varying tastes and desires of the wine-drinking, cheese-eating public, the six of us tested as wide a variety of cheeses as we could physically manage. Onto the results:

Vintage Vouvray: We tasted a bottle of Poniatowski 1989 Clos Baudoin Vouvray roughly thirty seconds after we opened it. It was a truly magnificent wine. Medium to full bodied the Poniatowski had a strong flavor with a sweet finish. The wine smelled crisp, clean, and sweet. In a wine with that much age and acidity, the different waves of flavor complemented each other well. This left little in the wine for the cheese to accentuate without affecting another aspect of the vouvray.

The fresh goat cheeses we tried clashed with the silky and heavy texture of the wine. Because the vouvray was so sweet, a blue cheese seemed to make the most sense. A few of the other guys thought Crozier Blue from Ireland worked well with the wine. Salty and strong with toffee and caramel flavors, Crozier matched the Vouvray in terms of complexity and created a new, unique flavor. But after drinking a swig of wine and eating a sample of the cheese it was hard not to think that both would be better off on their own. And as strange as it is to say, I would not pair any cheese with an older Vouvray as grand as the ’89 Poniatowski. But Prosciutto di Parma has the saltiness, flavor, and contrasting texture to be compatible with even the most distinguished Vouvray. The Prosciutto di Parma Black Label pairs best, though Jamon Serrano will work admirably as well.

The Verdict: Crozier Blue(if you must have cheese), Prosciutto di Parma

Alsatian Pinot Blanc: After the Vouvray we tried a bottle of Rosenberg de Wettolsheim 2002 Pinot Blanc. The texture felt almost watery after the thick Vouvray and the wine exuded bitter notes. The acidity was still present though it seemed underwhelmed proceeding the exceedingly sweet Poniatowski. The flavor was firm and stoic, strong enough to dilute the flavor of milder cheese. Washed-rind cheeses worked best as the nutty and funky notes played nicely with the wine. Willow Hill’s Paniolo tasted fantastic when eaten after a sip of the Pinot Blanc, like fresh picked apricots and mangos. When we tasted the cheese before the wine, the combination created an odd, swirling flavor. Hoch y Brig, the subtle Swiss cheese with the long finish, made for a more even pairing, though less robust than the wine with Paniolo. The washed-rind cheeses paired well with the Pinot Blanc, adding flavor to the wine and increasing its own.

But as with the Vouvray, many younger goat cheeses could not stand up to the wine. A harder, well-aged goat cheese, like the Capra Valtellina, brought the most to the pairing table while taking nothing away. When tasted together, the cheese and wine’s flavors rolled together, morphing into different textures and complementing each other throughout. The pairing had an abundance of flavors without ever leaving an unpleasant taste on the palate.

The Verdict: Washed-rind Cheese (Paniolo, Hoch yBrig) or Capra Valtellina
Try these pairings the next time you want to branch out from your standard wine and cheese plate. Good people should drink good wine. And for that, you need fine cheese (and maybe a pound of Prosciutto).