Pairing wine and cheese creates another layer of entertainment for guests who may debate which combinations work best, says Dianne Delaney, sommelier and bistro manager at Comtesse Thérèse Winery & Bistro in Aquebogue.
Not all wines work with all cheeses. "The white wines tend to complement the creamier cheeses and, for the red wines, the complex, full-bodied bold wines, need an equally complex, hard, firm cheese," Delaney says.
WHAT TO BUY
Generally, people have three glasses of wine during an evening, but it can vary per person, Delaney says. Since one wine bottle yields 4 to 6 glasses, she suggests buying a mixed case (12 bottles) for a party of 20.
While olives and sliced sausage may be perfect accompaniments to the cheeses, Delaney says hosts can certainly keep it simple with a few good baguettes or other simple, crusty bread.
"No crackers!" she says.
HOW TO SERVE
"When you serve red wine, room temperature is not room temperature." Delaney prefers to serve reds at cellar temperature, about 64 degrees. Keep the whites refrigerated, she says.
Having enough clean glasses on hand is important. Delaney suggests at least one white wine glass and one red wine glass per person. "If you want to get really technical, you could have a glass for each of the wines," she says.
Cheese should be served at room temperature - let it sit out at least 30 minutes - and Delaney prefers to have a knife with each cheese. "I arrange the cheese from creamy to semi-firm to firm to aged and ending with blue," she says.
WINE AND CHEESE PAIRING
Cabernet sauvignon and Roquefort cheese.
Cabernet sauvignon is "a big, bold grape flavor" with deep cherry color. The grape is from the Bordeaux region, Delaney says, aged in oak barrels according to the traditional style. Look for complex flavors of berries, spice and leather. "A cabernet should be very round and supple on the palate," she says. "It should have a beautiful, long finish with velvety tannins."
Roquefort (French) is a blue cheese made from raw sheep's milk, which Delaney described as "big and bold, salty and sweet." Other blue cheeses, such as Gorgonzola from Italy or domestics like Maytag Blue, also work with cabernet sauvignon.
WHY THEY WORK "They brought out both of the best characteristics of the wine and the cheese," Delaney says. "Beautiful, upfront blackberry notes followed by the cheese: big, bold, salty and sweet."
WINE AND CHEESE PAIRING
Sauvignon blanc and Catapano Chevre
Sauvignon blanc is characteristically marked by notes of citrus with sharp acidity. The wine is generally fermented in stainless-steel tanks, Delaney says. "It is a ripe, refreshing white wine."
Catapano Chevre (Long Island) is a fresh, goat's milk cheese from Catapano Dairy Farm in Peconic, sold at the Village Cheese Shop in Mattituck as well as many local cheese counters - and at the dairy itself. " a fresh, local goat's milk cheese. It was just soft, white and creamy and very mild," Delaney says. Coach Farm is another widely available brand of fresh goat's cheese from the Hudson Valley.
WHY THEY WORK "The mildness of the cheese and sharpness of the acidity of the sauvignon blanc complement each other," Delaney says.
WINE AND CHEESE PAIRING Comtesse Thérèse's 2005 Hungarian Oak Merlot and Comté (France)
Cherry in color, most merlots are aged in oak barrels, reflecting the Bordeaux style, says Dianne Delaney, sommelier and bistro manager at Comtesse Thérèse Winery & Bistro in Aquebogue. If you can't find Comtesse Thérèse's merlot, Delaney suggested a wine with "a nice forward fruit of berries," meaning the wine's first impression is fruit versus acid. "You want this wine to be round and smooth with nice acidity and a nice spiciness of black pepper and cinnamon."
The Comté is a raw cow's milk cheese that Delaney described as "smooth and nutty." Another comparable cheese is Gruyére, a Swissversion of Comté.
WHY THEY WORK "The merlot brought out the flavors of the nuttiness of this particular cheese. The cheese became almost sweet in its finish," says Delaney. "It was a beautiful combination."
INFO Comtesse Thérèse Winery & Bistro, 739 Main Rd., Aquebogue, 631-779-2800, comtessetherese.com