Hi Everyone!

I know that I have put a hold on this but we are back with the Wine and Cheese (or food) Pairing Posts! The lovely Meg from (www.megmaker.com) outdid herself on this one! She is giving us multiple wine recommendations to pair with Aged Gouda.

Here is what Meg recommends:

“The older the cheese, the smaller the bite.”

It’s an old expression, less adage than dictum. Young, fresh cheeses have high water content, soft texture, and mild flavor. We spread them thickly, mashing fresh chèvre with herbs on a crusty loaf, layering buffala mozzerella with basil and tomatoes, topping grilled halloumi with chopped cucumbers and yogurt and mint. We take big bites, without regret.

But as a cheese ages, microbes and enzymes work on its proteins and fats, and the moisture in its body slowly evaporates through the rind, concentrating its flavors and hardening its texture. The cheese acquires a piquant intensity and a sometimes grainy texture—think Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano (grana means “grain” in Italian)—and it’s now a cheese best enjoyed in thin shavings, grated into a flurry of flakes, or cut into narrow wedges that melt away on the tongue, leaving behind a nutty, umami, salty-savoryness.

Alex recently asked me what wines I might pair with aged Gouda. It’s one of my favorite cheeses. Made from whole cow’s milk, Gouda weighs in at 48% milk fat, and so is creamier than its Dutch confederate, Edam. In the US, it’s generally available in two styles. The young cheese, aged from a few weeks to six months, is pale yellow with a mild, nutty flavor and springy texture. Aged Gouda—pronounced KHOW-dah in its native Holland—is aged two or more years, which endows it with a deep, golden-orange hue, pleasant gritty texture, caramel sweetness, and distinct saltiness. Its a cheese that can pair with range of wines, carrying it from the cocktail hour through a dessert cheese course. Here’s what I told my friend.

The classic pairing recommendation for aged Gouda is full-bodied red, particularly French Bordeaux or Cabernet Franc. But I find that sharp or pungent cheeses can make red wine’s tannins more pronounced, producing a metallic or bitter taste. So I think softer reds are a better match here, those with medium fruit and moderate tannin, yet enough backbone to hold their own against such a flavorful cheese.

Wines based on Grenache, Gamay, Barbera, and more restrained versions of Tempranillo or Zinfandel could work well. Try 2009 Ridge Zinfandel “Pagani Ranch” ($35), 2008 Azienda Agricola Scagliola Barbera “SanSì” ($40), or Scagliola’s less expensive Barbera d’Asti, “Frem” ($21). I recently had an Austrian Blaufränkisch aged in neutral oak that would be great, too: 2008 Hillinger Blaufränkisch “Leithaberg” ($34).

Venturing into whites, look for those with savory notes of lanolin or beeswax, white flowers, and tropical or stone fruits, all of which pose an excellent counterpoint to the cheese’s sweet-saltiness. Chardonnay, particularly a lightly oaked style, and wines based on Roussanne or Grenache Blanc have ample texture to partner on the palate. Try the restrained (for California) 2008 Jordan Chardonnay “Russian River Valley” ($32), a wine with lively acidity and a mouth-coating creaminess, plus a distinct waxiness perfect with this cheese. The Châteauneuf-du-Pape style blend 2004 Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Blanc ($30) is a silky wine with pear and honeysuckle notes and a distinct nuttiness. Its age and complexity make it an excellent cheese-course white.

Finally, I’d recommend off-dry Riesling and Scheurebe, because their acidity and tropical notes feel cleansing and fresh, while the slight sweetness partners with the caramel flavors of the cheese. Try 2009 Müller-Catoir Haardt Scheurebe ($29) or 2009 Prinz du Salm-Dalberg’sches Riesling Schloss Wallhausen ($18). The Scheurebe in particular has a salty, slatey backbone that would grit pleasingly against minerality of this cheese, while its guava, Asian pear, and tropical flavors freshen the tongue for more.

A little sip, a little bite; no regrets.

Meg Houston Maker

January 25, 2012