It's difficult to find people who do not like wine. (Why would you want to?) And even harder to find someone who doesn't love cheese. (Well, besides vegans, of course.)
As much as the vast majority of the population enjoys eating cheese and drinking wine, most people have no idea how to really enjoy the flavors together. Never mind conduct a proper cheese and wine tasting.
Well, Susan and Mitchell Phipps of Cheese Culture
are here to help. Throughout the year, the shop holds multiple course on cheese and wine pairings. Clean Plate Charlie sat in on one of the courses.
To start, Susan and Mitchell go over the proper procedure. "Take the cheese and let it sit in your mouth for a while. Chew it, swirl it, elevate the temperature for about 15 seconds. With the cheese in your mouth, take a sip of your wine," she says. A group of close to 20 sits silently at the shop's bar, sloshing the combination with puffy cheeks.
Just like a wine pairing, with cheese you start off light and work your way up. The first cheese of the evening: Fleur Verte Chevrefeuille a French soft goat cheese topped with tarragon, thyme, and red peppercorn. Paired with Sancerre--a French sauvignon blanc--the combination is a tradition flavor combination. As Susan discusses the history and flavor-profile of the cheese, Mitchell describes the region and expression of the wine. Susan instructs guests to add some honeycomb to the mix. "Oh my god! That's like sex in your mouth," exclaims one of the regulars.
Moving on Susan divulges the rules for perfect pairings, "The rule of thumb is goat and sheep milk goes with white wine." Next up, Ossau Iraty, a sheep milk cheese from the Pyrenees. Same routine: slosh it around with the wine. Next, she has everyone try the cheese with some almonds in the same fashion--a completely different flavor emerges. Then she switches to red wine: Byron Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara. Her point was to display the versatility of the cheese in its ability to be paired with a variety of flavors and wines.
Throughout the class, Susan and Mitchell go on to explore five cheeses, four wines, and various accoutrements. Some flavors end up being hits--like the "sex in your mouth" combination. Others not so much. At one point Mitchell bursts out laughing at one of the women patrons as she tries a bite of Stilton with some port, "I love this! Look at her face." Her abject horror is blatantly apparent.
Obviously not everyone attending is a turophile--i.e. cheese fancier. But, by the end of the night, it's quite apparent everyone likes the wine. What started off as a relatively subdued group, breaks out into loud fits of laughter. Again, mostly at some patrons sense of disgust over the bleu cheese.
Tonight's group, for the most part regulars, have come a long way since their first pairing. Which is the primary goal of the Phipps. According to Susan, "My hope is to get enough people excited and involved enough to want to go to cheese school: an intensive three day tasting."
For more information about classes at Cheese Culture, visit the facebook page here