/ written and photographed by Pete Martin
It doesn’t take much to make me happy. Give me a loaf of crusty bread, a chunk of cheese and a bottle or two of wine, and I am set. Unfortunately, while many of us think about pairing wine with food, we don’t always think about what wine goes best with what cheese.
Christian Hansen is the founder and cheesemaker at Blue Ridge Creamery in Travelers Rest. He loves cheese, and he also loves wine. When asked to bring several cheeses, Hansen quickly obliged with a cooler full of locally produced goodness. Even the names of these cheeses are locally sourced. “We name a lot of our cheeses after South Carolina places or water,” he says.
The five wines we paired with Hansen’s cheeses were selected by Matt Tebbetts, founder of Mission Grape Co., a Greenville-based wine distributor that specializes in unique bottlings. Much of Mission’s offerings are from Europe, and many have not been available previously in South Carolina. Tebbetts has traveled to France and Italy to meet producers to learn about and select the wines he includes in the Mission Grape portfolio, which he carefully curates for local restaurants and retail shops.
Sampling wine and cheese makes for a fun evening during the winter season, and it’s a great way to engage guests. With the holidays approaching, here are five locally driven pairings for your next get-together.
The wine: Dirler-Cadé 2015 Riesling, $25
The cheese: Chattooga Blue
If you’re put off by sweet rieslings, this Alsatian riesling is a good pick. It’s dry, clean, balanced and full-bodied. Tebbetts credits the wine’s sophistication to traditional farming methods and top-quality fruit. “It’s really grand cru fruit without the grand cru price,” he says, referring to the class of wines produced from specialized groups of high-end French vineyards. This wine’s acidity makes it an ideal match for the Chattooga Blue, a raw cow’s milk blue cheese.
The wine: Prunus Dão Red, $20
The cheese: Buxton
Unlike the other wines, which are all from France, this wine (made primarily from the jaen grape) is from Portugal. This lightly oaked red is elegant and presents a nose of dark berries, plums and anise. On the palate, raspberry and dark cherries abound. This is a really enjoyable wine that comes across silky, elegant and accessible. “It is way undervalued,” Tebbetts says. “Portugal wines are the best values out there.” The rich flavors of the wine paired nicely with the Blue Ridge Creamery Buxton semi-hard cow’s milk cheese.
The wine: Anne Pichon Sauvage 2017 Vermentino, $15
The cheese: Fromage Blanc
This wine offers lots of bright, crisp, citrusy fruit and pairs well with almost any cheese, though it works well with the fromage blanc — a creamy, fresh cheese that Hansen shared. Look for a hint of oak on the palate, too, which makes it an excellent choice to pair with a Thanksgiving turkey or most any fall meal, especially one that includes fall herbs and spices. “People are familiar with vermentino on the Italian side,” Tebbetts says. “This being from the Rhone area, however, provides you with a little more fruit.”
The wine: Christian Bernard 2016 Grands Fers Fleurie Gamay Noir, $30
The cheese: Eastatoee Camembert
You shouldn’t go into the fall months without enjoying a French Beaujolais. That doesn’t mean you have to opt for a Beaujolais Nouveau, however, which can sometimes be too light for cooler weather. “This is cru gamay from Fleurie,” Tebbetts says. “This is a lighter-bodied, fruit-forward red that will pair well with lots of food, especially traditional holiday fare. Hansen’s cheese pick: the Eastatoee Camembert. “Bloomy rinds like brie and Camembert are challenging to pair with reds, but this wine is delicate enough to express itself without overpowering the cheese,” Hansen says.
The wine: Domaine Roger Belland Santenay-Beauregard, $65
The cheese: Raven Cliff
As one of the highest-end producers in Mission’s portfolio, this wine isn’t cheap, but it’s worth every penny. Hailing from one of the top pinot producers in the world, expect flavors of dark cherry, with hints of vanilla. “The best pinot noir in the world is from Burgundy,” Tebbetts says. “This is from one of the better producers of burgundy wines; they are small production but make some of the best pinot.” The Raven Cliff 12-month sheep’s milk cheese paired wonderfully with this wine, it’s texture and taste easily able to stand up to the pinot.
Want it/Find it
Wines from Mission Grape Co. are available at local restaurants and retail locations, including Jianna and The Community Tap. Find out more about Blue Ridge Creamery cheeses at blueridgecreamery.net