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Cheese & Wine Pairing 101

July 18, 2016

Cheese and Wine Pairing 101


For one delightful and enchanted evening, calories and cholesterol were forgotten as 22 FWSF members and friends indulged in the world of cheese and wine pairings at the Cheese School of San Francisco.

One by one, the group straggled in from the bustle and grittiness of the Mission to the School’s private beer garden, stepping into an unexpectedly verdant and tranquil courtyard strung with twinkling lights.  Instantaneously, we were able to let the dust of the day wash away, and the NV Scharffenberger Brut Excellence, with which we were greeted on this unusually warm evening, took away any lingering woes.  

We eventually found ourselves in a pleasant classroom, each seated in front of an artfully assembled plate of nine cheeses, dried fruit and several wines.  Our instructor, Liz Ruben, methodically explained the science of cheese production and pairing, but it was when she got to the “learn by eating” portion of the class that the world of sensory appreciation expanded.

An informal poll suggests that the group’s favorite cheese was a three-year old Comté, a deep gold, semi-firm, “everyday” French cheese from the celebrated cheesemaker Marcel Petite.  Somewhat similar to the Spanish manchego, this raw cow’s milk cheese is made in huge, flat, discs weighing 80 to 100 pounds and is laboriously turned by hand.  Slightly crystalline, the Comté, Marcel Petite is produced in caves in the Franche-Comte region of eastern France between Borgogne and Switzerland.

The class had the opportunity to experiment with a range of wine and/or fruit pairings, rating each from “zero” (likened to a first date where both parties feel inertia - no next date) to a “3” (life feels magical, conversation flows, and the pair may end up eloping).   One memorable pairing was the Brillat-Savarin, a soft, pasteurized cow’s milk cheese that went exceptionally well with the pinot cherries.  

Attending a class after a long workday can be taxing, but consensus among FWSF members was that making the effort to attend this particular class on a weekday night was a sacrifice we were happy to make for the sake of our careers.

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