Cheese for Chardonnay

by Joe Colosi

The warmer seasons are fast upon us, and a chilled white wine in the sunlight is just the thing to make the most of the weather. Chardonnay fits the bill, especially with an accompanying cheese. As usual, Hunter and I sampled two bottles, one Chardonnay from California, the other from Burgundy, in the search for an ideal match.

L’Ecole #41 06 Chardonnay Columbia Valley: The first thing we noticed about this wine was its unappealing light yellow color. However, the wine smelled crisp, and like apples and pears. The flavor was more buttery than the nose and finished with a kick and notes of guava.

Many cheeses we tried matched well in flavor but clashed in terms of texture. Capriole Sofia, a handmade American cheese, meshed perfectly and made the wine richer and the cheese more full-flavored. But the creamy texture of the cheese mixed awkwardly when eaten before a drink of the buttery wine. The same problem arose with Midnight Moon, an aged goat’s milk Gouda. It has a creamy texture and a sweet, tangy taste, but the buttery wine again made it a sloppy combination.
We finally found an ideal match with the French classic, Le Chevrot. The dry goat cheese achieved the right amount of creaminess. The flavors blended together, becoming slightly tart, fruity, and tasty. The end finished with an unpleasant bitterness. But when we removed the edible rind from the cheese, the pairing worked beautifully in all regards. For a harder cheese, try Comte Marcel Petite. This nutty cheese greatly amped up the wine’s flavor.

The Verdict: Le Chevrot – no rind, Comte Marcel Petite

Roux Pere & Fils 05 Chablis Premier Crus Montmains: This one hundred percent chardonnay Chablis was darker in color to the California chard. It tasted lighter and sweeter with lime on the finish. More oaky than buttery, this wine had a more formidable finish than the L’Ecole. We only tried one cheese with the Chablis but it proved to be an excellent match. Capriole O’Banon, a delicious handmade chevre wrapped in Woodford Reserve-soaked chestnut leaves form, has a funky, goaty, and punchy flavor. The wine fed off the cheese, creating a rounder, nutty finish. This kind of pairing makes you want to eat more and more cheese and drink more and more wine.

The Verdict: Capriole O’Banon:

Both of this week’s wines were purchased at the state-run Wine and Spirits store on twelfth and Chestnut, sadly, the widest selection of imported and fine wines in Philadelphia that I know of. And while neither of the Chardonnays we drank were Home Runs on their own, they tasted much better with nearly all of the cheeses with tried. With the oncoming sweltering heat and long summer days ahead, now, more than ever, do we need cheese to improve our Government mandated wine offerings.