Rosé-y. Cheesy. Glory.
In the spirit of the Olympics, I decided to put together a cheese plate from various lands to see how each paired with the 2011 Château de Ségriès Tavel Rosé. I enlisted my live-in cheese expert, Brooklyn Beer Geek, in this mission. Together we dreamed up an ambitious list spanning seven countries: England, Italy, Spain, France, Switzerland, the US and Ireland. Sadly we were unable to find all of our cheeses of desire, including Stilton – perhaps all lovers of this royal blue stocked up on it for Olympic snacking? We ended up with cheese from the US (Vermont Butter and Cheese Coupole, Twig Farm Butterwick, Consider Bardwell Slyboro and Spring Brook Tarentaise), France (Brillat Savarin, Le Doullion and Saint-Nectaire) and Italy (Pecorino Rossellino and Blu del Moncenisio).
Considering this rosé's fresh fruity character, I expected it to pair best with the goat cheeses, but the ace up its sleeve that made it exceptionally delicious with Alpine and blue cheeses was its fuller body, round mouthfeel and palate-blanketing fruit and fresh acidity akin to biting into a ripe peach. Here are the medal standings:
GOLD: Spring Brook Tarentaise (Raw Cow's Milk, Reading, Vermont)
USA, USA! This was the seventh cheese we tasted in a nine-cheese lineup, and it was a real fist-pumpingly good moment. This is what Gabby Douglas must have felt like last night when she won the Gymnastics All-Around gold medal. Sea-salt caramel notes burst onto my palate as soon as the wine hit the cheese, which reminded me of other Alpine greats such as Abondance and Beaufort. The wine's body really embraced the cheese's granular texture and left my tongue buzzing in a glorious state.
SILVER: Pecorino Rossellino (Raw Sheep's Milk, Tuscany, Italy) and Blu del Moncenisio (Raw Cow's Milk, Piedmont, Italy)
A pair of Italians tied for the next spot on the podium. The Pecorino was pretty basic, making it well suited for grating over pasta or risotto. But the rosé pulled this ho-hum cheese up in the standings, and made it achieve that elusive third flavor significantly more delicious than the wine or cheese on their own. The Blu del Moncenisio was a real showstopper, bringing the wine's cherry, cantaloupe and peach aromas and flavors to the fore. This vintage of Château de Ségriès Tavel Rosé has a sweetness to it that makes it a lighter, drier stand-in for Port or Oloroso Sherry. Definitely try it with any blue cheese.
BRONZE: Le Douillon (Raw Goat's Milk, Auvergne, France)
Although this is my favorite cheese of the moment, Le Douillon sits squarely in third place for this competition, as it needed a helping hand from a honey from Aquitaine to make it shine. Judging from the lack of Google hits, Le Douillon is a cheese flying under the radar, although it's basically declassified Charolais. A raw goat's milk cheese from Auvergne, it was produced as Charolais before the AOC rules for this cheese were set. Grab a few cylinders of this goat-y gold, drizzle it with honey and have yourself a Ratatouille moment of revelation.