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Say cheese and what do you think of (or I think of!) Wine. This classic culinary pairing will never get old, and when you find the perfect match it's one you come back to, as it is just so damn delicious.
When I say Swiss cheese what comes to mind? Slices of holey deli cheese slapped onto a sandwich. These industrialised packets can often be found in supermarket isles but there are over 450 different styles. That's a lot to choose from! It may seem like too much choice, but cheese made in Switzerland does have many similarities which make pairing a bottle of wine for a Swiss selection slightly less complicated.
- 99% of Swiss cheese is made from cow’s milk.
- Nearly all have rinds that are produced naturally to protect the cheese during age.
- Most are produced by the cooked pressed cheese method. This involves using higher temperatures which expel more moisture leaving you with a denser texture compares to the uncooked method.
- Alpine cheese aka semi-hard/hard, are the most well known and exported styles. Think Emmental.
Here are a few you must put on your cheese bucket list and the perfect wine to pair;
L'Etivaz AOP - An alpine style of cheese, produced by hand in copper pots over a wood fire. Old school style full of ancient traditions. It's hard, yet silky smooth, a real traditional mountain Swiss cheese. It's complex, tangy, nutty, and fruity as it's only produced from summertime milk from cows grazing in the Vaud Alps. A rare cheese that tastes like all Gruyère used to taste like.
Vacherin Fribourgeois AOP - The lesser-known partner in a classic Swiss fondue (the other being Gruyère) a recipe that's over 1000 years old. It is a semi-hard style that is rich and creamy with herbal, chocolate, and nutty aromas. It is produced at the bottom of the alps on a high plateau, the aromas reflect the alpine meadows where the cows graze all summer. The flavours become alive when this sophisticated cheese is melted, think of a cozy Fondue after a day of skiing or at home after a long week of work!
Cironé – This is a statement cheese that by law must be matured for a minimum of 2 years. It develops complex flavours as it is moved from cave to cave to experience a range of different conditions. Cironé is hard, crumbly, and ever so creamy. The style showcases crunchy caramel flavoured crystals that add texture to each bite. It’s a cheese that manages to balance salty, sour and sweetness beautifully.
Appenzeller - A powerful cheese that has a special herb and wine brine that protects it during the ageing process. It's a hard style which can range from fruity to nutty, mild to aromatic depending on how long it's matured. Even though it has a firm texture, it’s indulgent and creamy on the palate and matched beautifully with the date chutney. The different coloured wrapping represents the range of styles - Silver, Gold, black and purple.
Mouthwatering yet? So, you have a selection of Swiss cheeses, now it's time for the wine. One of the main things we want to achieve is balance. You never want to pair a wine that overpowers the cheese. As I mentioned before there are many similarities when the Swiss are making cheese and if you could only choose one wine for your selection it would have to be a Beaujolais. Produced from the Gamay Noir grape, it is a wine that will complement a range of wedges on your board. It has an abundance of fruit on the palate, great acidity and soft tannins that make it perfectly versatile.
The soft and smooth tannins work beautifully with young (a few years matured) styles so you don't get the unpleasant astringency in your cheeks. The grapes juicy acidity can cut through the richness of the cow’s milk, which makes swapping between different cheeses a breeze. The beautiful forest berries and dark cherry palate of Gamay Noir work seamlessly alongside the nuttiness, while enhancing the fruity flavours in the cheese. The Guy Breton Beaujolais Marylou 2020 is a fantastic and vibrant example. They use fruit from three different villages (Chiroubles, Morgon and Brouilly) to create a palate that's bursting with crunchy fruits and depth. It was a fabulous match for my Swiss cheese discovery.