Parmesan cheese: indulge it with a vintage champagne
Parmesan cheese in and of itself is its very own historical monument of Italian gastronomy. It is made from the milk of four types of cows. The production area for the famous Parmigiano Reggiano is fairly extensive, covering the provinces of Parma, Reggio, Emilia and Modena, and a small part of the region of Mantua and Bologna. Parmesan is a hard cheese and
has had its own Protected Appellation d’Origine (AOP) since 1996. It takes approximately 590 litres of milk to make one wheel of Parmesan. In the past, Parmesan was made in April and May. Now however it is found all year long. When choosing the wine to go with Parmesan, you must keep in mind the age of the cheese. Parmesan has low lactose content and is fairly easy to digest. As it gets older it gets more crumbly, and stronger in taste and character. The choice of the right wine is thus different for a 12-month old Parmesan, a 24-month old Parmesan and one that is 3 years or older. A red wine could go with a young, 12-month-old Parmesan, but nothing older. A ripe old Parmesan demands a well-made white wine with good patina and well-mastered oxidation.
With Ripe Cheese
The wine’s acidity and the choice of the vintage are both essential elements. The riper the cheese, the older the wine should be. In my opinion, Champagnes offer the very best pairings, especially blancs de blancs. Their sparkle stands up beautifully to the fat of the cheese, and their acid underpinning, and the way they develop pair wonderfully with the great persistency of the Parmesan. For a 2-year old Parmesan, I recommend the 2004 Champagne Caïn from the maison Jacquesson. This cuvée is made with grapes from a parcel on the Avize grand cru, planted with high-density Chardonnay in 1962. Fermentation takes place in barrels and eight years on wood bestow it with the patina it takes to accompany the Parmesan through to the very end on the palate. With a 3-year old Parmesan, I suggest the 1996 Champagne les Chétillons from the Pierre Péters estate, from a parcel in Mesnil-Sur-Oger. This outstanding cuvee is made grapes from mass selection of old Chardonnay vines. This makes for a sumptuous pairing further enhanced by the outstanding evolution of the wine, which contains all the complexity and intensity it needs to go with this beautifully ripe cheese.
The vin de voile family of wines is the source of magnificent pairings with Parmesan. A lovely vin jaune from the Jura, or a Gaillac will go nicely with 36-month or even 48-month old Parmesans. However, if you prefer to remain in Italy, take a hop skip and a jump to Sardinia. There, I recommend that you discover an appellation with wines that are similar to vins de voile such as the Vernaccia di Oristano. Try the Flor 2000 from Azienda Attilio Contini. Quite simply amazing!
La Revue du Vin de France, mars 2017