Cheese for Barbera D’Alba and Salice Salentino

by Joe Colosi

Sometimes drinking wine for two hours after work is a real drag. But we managed to have a good time when our friends Jim and Kristina Burke stopped by with two bottles of red wine. Both of this week’s pairings are available at the restaurant James, located on 8th st. between Christian and Catherine. And now, for the wine and cheese.

Agricole Vallone Vereto 03 Salice Salentino Riserva: This wine is made predominantly with the Negroamaro grape (90%) as well as a touch of Malvasia Nera (10%). The smell was spicy and alcoholic, with notes of strawberries and cherries. The taste was striking, almost like a ripe blood orange. Its tannic finish suckled our cheeks. For a wine that is meant to be enjoyed with dinner, we found two great matches. And for what it’s worth, we tried pairing Blue d’Aosta, a surprisingly sharp cow’s milk blue, and the taste was worse than burnt glue.

On the other hand, Monte Veronese, a hard, cow’s milk cheese, meshed beautifully with the cold texture of the wine. The wine amplified the flavor of the cheese creating a warm, cheddary sensation. The wine had an enjoyable flavor, but for a slightly off, possibly metallic flavor; but that only induced us to eat more cheese – never a bad thing.

Foja de Noce also paired nicely with the Salice Salentino. The combined flavor was gritty, earthy, and lasting. The hard and moist sheep’s milk cheese developed an incredible nutty flavor when eaten after a swig of wine. For its part, the cheese impacted the wines cutting flavor favorably and rounded out the tannins.

The Verdict: Monte Veronese, Foja De Noce

Parusso 04 Barbera D’Alba Ornati: After the strong smell of the Salice Salentino, this wine had a lighter, rosy smell that adopted the scent of cheese from my hands. The flavor of the wine, however, was abundant. It tasted full and complex with plum notes – a wine that can be drunk alone. We found two perfect cheeses in contrasting pairing styles.

Cacio al Tartufo, a sheep’s milk, truffle-studded cheese, delicious all on its own, paired exceptionally with the Barbera. As we ate and drank, the soft velvety flavors smoothly evolved into a sumptuous truffle finish. This is a dangerous pairing and may lead to overeating.

Blue del Moncenisio is a creamy cow’s milk blue cheese made less than one hundred miles from where the wine is made in Piedmont. The oozy cheese clings to the mouth and has a pleasant, mild flavor. The wine tastes sweeter, with fruity hints of orange and lime. As Hunter said, “it’s an excellent dessert pairing.” So there you go: A bottle of Parusso Barbera and a pound of Cacio al Tartufo for dinner and another bottle and a pound of Blue del Moncenisio for dessert.

The Verdict: Cacio al Tartufo, Blue del Moncenisio

Thanks again to Jim and Kristina Burke from James. Without them, we would have had to pay for this week’s wine.