This month we decided to change things up by focusing not solely on the quality of the wine in our glasses, but how well they pair with a specific food. Our choice of food? Melted cheese! We made a Gruyere and Comté based cheese fondue, and gathered four candidate wines for the evening's challenge.
All the wines turned out to be pretty good with fondue, with the off-dry Riesling matching the best overall. The only red of the night was a surprise Rioja that did a better job than we expected. The other two bottles came from the same part of France (the Savoie), and exhibited the same palate-cleansing quality and verve. In fact, we came to suspect that these were probably from the same growing region as the night went on.
This was an interesting experiment, and we decided that we should try this format more often. The wines below are listed in the order in which they paired the best.
First Place: Eugen Müller Riesling Kabinett Forst Vom Basalt 2017 (Pfalz). Has that distinctive petroleum/gasoline aroma, along with white peach, soft citrus, and salty sea air notes. Fruity in the mouth, with a little residual sugar, and tasting of ripe peaches, ripe Meyer lemons, and orange blossoms. Almost like an orange creamsicle, but with plenty of acidity, and is not cloyingly sweet. Both the wine and the cheese flavors were amplified with this pairing, and was easily the best match. The cheese made the wine taste slightly sweeter. We agreed that a whole bottle of this would be a little tiring (we're generally not fans of whites with residual sugar), but would be great as a single glass paired with food. Everyone's favorite pairing, for a total of 24 points. Kristin's bottle. About $20.
Second Place: Muga Selección Especial 2014 (Rioja). Cedar and leather on the nose, reminiscent of a wood shop. Spice drawer. Ali described it as "a handsome man who does woodworking." An outstanding wine, with expert balance, and showing flavors of vanilla, dark cherries, dark plums, anise, dark chocolate, and little bit of molasses. Has purity and balanced acidity. Brings the cheese down to an earthier place, and the vanilla notes in the wine helped with pairing. A smokiness comes out and works with the savoriness of the cheese. The best wine of the night, and everyone's second favorite pairing, for a total of 16 points. Andy's bottle. About $45.
Third Place (tie): André & Michel Quenard Les Abymes 2017 (Savoie). Smells surprising, like Pez, cornstarch, or bubble gum, plus cumin, cloves, and honey. Very tropical in the mouth, not unlike pineapples and lychee. Has a hint of brown paper bag, then cinnamon on the finish. A lot of verve, with a salty air/seawater quality. The cheese and this wine didn't really do anything together, besides it being palate-cleansing. Andy decided that "They stay in their lanes." 8 points. Ali's bottle. About $18.
Third Place (tie): Les Rocailles Apremont 2017 (Savoie). A little dusty, like an old basement, but also jamon, honeydew, squid ink, tangerines, and honeysuckle. It's not shouting, however. Tasters found surprising flavors of watermelon, green melon, peppadew, almonds, and apples, then a salty air finish. Pleasant. Doesn't sing with the cheese, but doesn't do anything bad either. 8 points. David's bottle. About $15.