Living in a place rich in culinary tradition – as we do at Domaine de Cromey in the heart of Burgundy – doesn’t mean you always have to be traditional. The love of food and wine runs deep here, and living in the thick of it allows for an even deeper appreciation.
When it comes to cheese, we’re spoiled for choice here in Burgundy. So a good cheese board is an important part of any traditional meal. And traditionally, you can expect this to be paired with big-gun red wines – those aged, deep reds that have been cellaring for this very purpose.
The age-old pairing of red wine and cheese is a sort of ‘horse and carriage’ combo, dating back longer than anyone can remember. But the more you taste, and the more you know, the less you are driven by ritual and rigidity. It’s undeniable that aged red Burgundy is a perfect match with some cheeses. But by the same time, other cheeses don’t match at all, and we’ve been exploring why.
Let’s start by categorizing Burgundian cheeses.
- Simple goats cheeses: these are usually from the area around Chablis in the north, or Mâconnais to the south. They range from ultra-fresh that barely hold together, to little aged nuggets of concentrated flavor.
- Washed cheeses: washing helps to create a crust if desired, or avoid one if not. Cheeses like Epoisses and Chaource come in this category. Epoisse is famously washed in Marc de Bourgogne, the local ‘brandy’, while Chaource, like Brie and Camembert is washed in salt water. Other variations on the theme of strong cheeses include Ami du Chambertin (developed in the 1950s specifically to go with the wines of Gevrey-Chambertin), Soumaintrain, Langres, and Pierre-Qui-Vire.
- Soft, cow’s milk cheeses: Citeaux is perhaps the best known of these, coming from Citeaux Abbey and made in small batches from organic milk and organic pastures. It’s much like Reblochon. And for those who like their cheese blue, there is the Bleu de Bresse with its washed crust and creamy texture.
So when we think of wines to go with these styles of cheese, red wine does not always work.
Why do aged reds not go so well?
Some goat cheeses make red wine taste soapy, and should instead be drunk with white wines, ideally from their region (Chablis or Mâcon).
Epoisses simply overpowers red wines (if you really want red wine then try a younger, acidic wine), but try a white Burgundy and see what happens!.
With Chaource, the same happens with red wine – the white crust tastes bitter, but with a Chardonnay it stays wonderfully milky.
On the other hand, the Bleu de Bresse calls for simple, fruity red Burgundy wine.
Next time you put together a nice cheese board, think Burgundy. Burgundy cheese, but white Burgundy wine.
Look out for more of our articles explaining the ins and outs of Burgundy wine, like this one on Crémant de Bourgogne, and this one in which we meet and greet some of the best female winemakers around at the moment. And don’t forget our brand new Burgundy Wine Club, open for membership now!