by Jenny Benzie, Advanced Sommelier + Certified Wine Educator, Proprietress of Épernay Wine & Spirits
Gathering around the large dining room table of your family home on Nantucket, the sharing of good food and perfectly paired wine will be sure to create long-lasting memories of your time spend here on island. Like wine, cheese should be nurtured and matured under proper conditions in order for it to be at its best. Controlling the natural ripeness of cheese under proper conditions, such as airflow and humidity, to achieve complete fermented bliss is called “affinage.” While you may have your favorite go-to, your cheese can be matched to your special occasion. A simple, easy plate for afternoon entertaining, a pre-game gathering before hitting the town or perhaps a late night snack after dancing the night away at the Chicken Box, see this tasty list of suggestions that would be a perfect pairing for your next beach day and beyond!
The most famous goat cheese of the many varieties produced in the Loire Valley, Crottin de Chavignol is the claim to fame of this tiny village that has fewer inhabitants than you will find on a ferry coming to Nantucket on a warm, sunny summer day. This small cylindrical goat cheese from the area around Chavignol has been produced for centuries. This cheese, produced from raw milk of the alpine goats, is protected by the French AOC Seal (appellation d’origine controlee) and has to meet stringent AOC production criteria in order to be called such.
This is one of those rarest of cheeses in that it can be eaten at various stages of its maturity. In its youth, the cheese is more solid and compact with a white rind. As it ripens, it develops a harder rind and takes on a stronger flavor that is subtle yet slightly nutty. At full maturity, the cheese becomes crumbly yet still has a smooth texture. It’s delicious served simply with a green salad, as a component of a cheese board, or baked as a starter. Beware of other non- AOC imitations with a similar name, but not the pedigree or designation status. Wine Pairing: Domaine Serge Laloue Sancerre 2015 (Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley, France)
In the old English Language, a “truckle” means cylinder shape. Traditionally, Old World Cheddars are formed in truckles. The Flory Family of Jamesport, Missouri, has developed a distinctive aged clothbound cheddar. Instead of being made in the true form of a truckle, Missouri Truckle Cheddar is aged with the cheesecloth left on the outside, allowing the cheese to breathe and resulting in an appetizing dry, crumbly, crystalized texture. Made from cow’s milk, the cheese is allowed to dry for ten days and is then coated with lard to reduce mold. It is then tenderly loved and cared for over the next 9 t12 months of aging so that the mold eats away at the lard layering. What comes to fruition is a cheddar with a perfect balance of sweet, salt, and tart that tastes like no other white cheddar. Beer Pairing: Two Roads ‘Honeyspot Road’ White IPA
Consider Bardwell Farm is located in western Vermont’s Rutland County, about an hour southwest of Killington and near the New York state border. It was the first cheese-making co-op in Vermont, founded in 1864 by Consider Stebbins Bardwell himself. A century later, this farm was revitalized with the tradition of handcrafting each wheel. The raw Jersey cow milk is antibiotic and hormone free, delivered each morning to their historic barn-turned-cheese house. The cows practice rotational grazing on pesticide-free and fertilizer-free pastures which helps them to produce the sweetest milk, and hence the tastiest cheese.
Pawlet is one of their several cheeses produced that is named after a nearby town in Vermont. It is made in the style of an Italian Toma, which as soft or semi-hard makes it a versatile cheese, and aged for 4 to 6 months. It is great to add sliced on a sandwich or as an appetizer that has a broad appeal for a discerning crowd. Its taste is rich and buttery with slightly sweet mild flavor that becomes full and nutty as the cheese ages. Consider with: Domaine Glantenay Bourgogne Rouge 2014 (rustic, earthy Pinot Noir from Burgundy)
Like every good wine should have a perfect drinking vessel, your cheese experience should also be enlightened with the perfect accoutrement. The Cheese Shop, located in Wellesley, MA, and known to locals in the area as Wasik’s based on the family name of the owners, offers an incredible housemade spread that is a signature staple for them. While the recipe for the Wasik’s Curry Apricot Chutney Spread is a closely guarded family secret, the base of this delicious spread is cream cheese with curry powder and dried apricots. The end result of this sweet, yet savory spread would be a great addition to your finely aged cheese, fresh baked loaf of bread from the Nantucket Bake Shop or even on your leftover dinner from the night before.
One of the great things about cheese is that every one of them is unique, as is every wine. While there are numerous, classical cheese and wine pairings, the landscape and offering of both these categories is ever changing and sometimes daunting to keep up with all the new selections.