cheese with herbs and flowers

Pairing wine with cheeses to which flowers and herbs have been added requires very attentive care. Herbs, spices and flowers contribute a great deal of additional flavours and complexity that must be taken into consideration.

A Brin d’Amour cheese…

Let’s start by taking a look at Brin d’Amour, a cheese made from ewe-milk, a soft-rind cheese with a natural rind whose roots go back to the 1950’s in Corsica. Ewe milk in and of itself has unique taste, and the herbs from the Corsican scrubland that cover the cheese add notes of dried grasses, spice and chlorophyll. White wine would clearly be a great companion, but for me the very best pairing here would be a Retsina.

This traditional Greek appellation is very popular and the quality of Retsina wine has greatly improved. Several winemakers, devoted to the tradition, have worked hard on the taste, producing wine that is much more interesting than in the not so long-ago past.

Retsina is primarily made in mainland Greece. The two grape varietals most commonly used to make it are Savatiano and Roditis. The ancestral winemaking method consists in adding pine resin (pinus halepensis) during fermentation. The resin is then removed, leaving its aromas in the wine.

There are two reasons behind pairing Retsina with herbaceous and flowery cheese. The wine is dry and stands up well to the fat in the ewes’ milk. Then, the intensity of the flavours in retsina goes well with the aromatic persistency emanating from the Corsican scrubland herbs on the Brin d’Amour cheese.

I suggest you taste the wine made by the Papagiannakos estate, located in Mesogaia in the Attica region which stretches around Athens. This is subtle, elegant Retsina made solely from the Savatiano grape, from vines that are fifty years old, planted in clayey-chalky soil. This is quite simply a perfect pairing.

or a Tomme with flowers.

Another cheese, Tomme with flowers, also draws our attention. Its provenance is Austria. This uncooked pressed cheese, made from cow’s milk, is covered with dried flowers such as cornflower, calendula, strawberry, rose … which endow great colour and taste to the cheese. Austria, also home to great wines, grows a magnificent white grape varietal, the Grüner Vetliner, the most widely-planted varietal in the country. And the very steep vineyards in Wachau, a valley in lower Austria where the Danube majestically flows, makes one of the very best expressions of the varietal.

Do taste the Grüner Vetliner Dürnsteiner Kellerberg Smaragd from the F.X. Pichler estate, the 2012 vintage. I deliberately choose a rather developed expression of the grape so as to leave the youthful aromas behind, and concentrate on the inherent aromas of rose, peony and pepper, and on those which come from the terroir. And I have opted for smaragd maturity, the ripest and richest level in the region. The power and gorgeous mineral bitters in this wine go beautifully with the texture of the cheese…

Here you have two very original pairings to end a meal on a very high note!

La Revue du Vin de France 624, septembre 2018

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