Tasting in the Age of COVID-19
This past Friday I was given the opportunity to educate my best friends on my favorite topic: wine! We covered the basics of wine tasting (for a brief overview of this process, click here), and picked out some great cheese combinations to try with each wine. I also sprinkled in some of my favorite wine facts throughout the evening.
Unfortunately in this age of isolation, it's no longer safe to sit around a table sharing wine. But the positive of conducting wine tastings over Zoom is that I'm able to connect with friends across the country and expand my teachings beyond Milwaukee. A great deal of the wine education experience is having others by your side to talk through what you are tasting. Without location restrictions, I can meet up with anyone and introduce a unique quarantine activity to your circle, all while keeping the social aspects of wine tasting alive.
Jenny lives in my neck of the woods, but Allison and Tracy hail all the way from Utah and Arizona, respectively. It's always so fun and fascinating to me to hear about the culture of wine in different parts of America. And this new age of wine tasting gives me the opportunity to do just that.
Wines We Tasted
After having everyone fill out a short survey, I put together a curated list of wine and cheese pairings for everyone. Based on the answers I received of what they liked and disliked, I picked out the following wine and cheese pairings:
Sauvignon Blanc and Goat Cheese
This is an infamous pairing and one that I am probably going to choose for any superseding wine tastings. The Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is one of my personal favorites. I'm a huge fan of those flavors that make your mouth pucker. This wine does exactly that, containing heavy notes of grapefruit, lemon citrus, and passionfruit. The extremely high quantity of acid in this wine is what makes it a perfect pairing with goat cheese. Since Sauvignon Blanc tends to have an overwhelming flavor to it, goat cheese is an excellent, blank slate counterpart. It severely cuts the acidity in the wine, and brings out the herbal, secondary notes that you may have not originally tasted.
Chenin Blanc and Brie
If you haven't had the opportunity to try Chenin Blanc yet, I highly recommend venturing out and finding a bottle. We found a delicious South African Chenin Blanc from Total Wine for just under $10. I like to think of this wine as the middle man between Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. So if you're trying to become a Chardonnay lover yourself, or perhaps aren't keen on the heavy, buttery California Chards, Chenin Blanc is an excellent alternative. This dry white is often rich with citrus, apple, and mineral notes, is high in acid, and has a medium body. I chose to pair it with brie because, like goat cheese, it's a perfect "blank slate" option. I also love the combination of brie and apple, making this cheese the perfect for extracting those orchard notes in the wine.
Chianti and Aged Parmesan
We then transitioned to red wines, kicking it off with a Chianti. I saw a request for Italian wines on the survey and I knew immediately what I was going to pick. I couldn't resist. I absolutely love Chianti. In my opinion, Chianti is a perfect combination of fruity, jammy flavors, and dry secondhand flavors such leather and tomato leaf. It's extremely high in acid and tannins, making it a perfectly balanced wine. The next time you open a Chianti, spend some time with the smell of it before tasting. You might be surprised with how many flavor notes you pick up on!
I chose to pair this Italian classic with aged parmesan. A common wine and food pairing rule is "what grows together goes together." Italy is probably the best example of this rule. This European country has such a rich and expansive culture of wine and food that you really can't go wrong with any pairing choice.
Pinot Noir and Gruyere
We rounded out the tasting with one of my new favorite wines, a funky Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Every wine country more or less has their own "signature wine," or the wine they are best known for. For Oregon, that wine is Pinot Noir. It tastes and smells much different than the Pinot's you may be used to drinking. I often pick up on more earthy scents over the fruity ones. With an Oregon Pinot Noir, you might smell hints of those secondary flavors such as mushroom, vanilla and tobacco, but taste notes of sour cherry, raspberry or cranberry. It's extremely versatile and has earned its place of noble wines alongside the more robust, full bodied reds. I chose to pair this wine with Gruyere because, much like the Pinot, its flavors are complex but not overwhelming. The subtle nut flavors of this cheese pair amazingly with the fruitiness of the wine.