I attended a wine and cheese tasting hosted by two of my favorite Westside culinary haunts, House Red Wine Shop and Marion Street Cheese Market. Both venues consistently tantalize and surprise with their unique offerings. And so it was on a Wednesday night, s sort of “tentpole” of levity to a stressful workweek, that I indulged in a little wine pairing entertainment.
The tasting started with a cava matched with a creamy soft cheese made from goat’s milk. Like a brie, Haystack Mountain’s Snowdrop is sold in a round disc covered in an edible rind with silky center, so soft it almost dissolved on my tongue like cotton candy. It was paired with Chateau Renni, a French name for a Spanish sparkling wine made in the French tradition.
As a welcome to the tasting, we were served a Prosecco, Italy’s best known sparkler. Cava is made somewhat differently, in more a “methode traditionelle” which means it’s made the same way that the sparkling wines of France’s Champagne region are. This means the wine goes through two fermentations, one before bottling like still wine, then another in bottle which creates, and contains, the carbon dioxide that makes sparkling wines bubbly.
Prosecco is commonly made where the spent yeast cells from the first fermentation are removed before the second, in-bottle fermentation. The result is a more tart, fruit-forward aparkling wine. Cava, on the other hand, is made by leaving the spent yeast in for the second fermentation. This is called “sur lees” -- French for “on the yeast” -- and imparts a creamy finish to a cava that isn’t found in the more austere finish of a Prosecco. It explains why the cava was particularly well matched to this creamy cheese. The crispness of the bubbles were able to cut through Snowdrop’s richness, but the hint of creamy roundness on the wine’s finish helped wed the two.
Interestingly, we also tried this cheese with a Cabernet, to go a little more tete-a-tete pairing a “big” cheese with a “big” wine. It was a fantastic match as well. We’ll talk about that more next time.
Meantime, you can find Snowdrop at the Marion Street Cheese Market in Oak Park, and Chateau Renni at House Red in Forest Park.
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