Monday, May 17, 2010

Italian Cheese and Wine Pairings - with a nod to the martini!

Last night Darling Husband and I went to our first wine club meeting since December, and as luck would have it, the focus was on Italy.  Fantastico!  There are probably as many delicious Italian cheeses as there are delicious Italian wines.  Since we have both red and white wine drinkers in the club, I wanted to bring a little something for everyone to enjoy that would elevate the wine tasting to another level.  Plus, a cheese board isn't really a cheese board with just one cheese, right?

First up (on the right), was a delicious, mild, 4 week old goat cheese from the Piedmont region of Italy called Tumin Rutulin.  The edible ash rind is from the juniper plant.  The one that makes gin, yes.  But it turns out juniper also imparts it's sweet deliciousness to goat cheese.  The sweetness from the juniper was immediately obvious to me, but maybe because I knew about the juniper ash in advance, my mind was playing palate tricks on me.It can't hurt that the goats helping to make this cheese probably munch on nothing but sweet mountain grasses and flowers.  Perfect on a little slice of bread, and absolutely spread-able while retaining a soft crumble.  It would also be amazing in a salad with some spring greens and some blueberries.  In fact, I'm eating it right now with my fingers!  It also helped mellow out an angry little Pinot Grigio, giving it a nice smoothness.  Man Who Sneers at Goats (Cheese) will sadly never give this one a try, but my slightly cheese-phobic friend really liked this one last night (even before a few glasses of vino)!

On the left, cut into cunning little triangles, was the Pecorino Ginepro.  Pecorino identifies this as an Italian sheep's milk cheese, while Ginepro lets you know that the rind is washed with balsamic vinegar and juniper berries during the aging process.  I wasn't planning on having a juniper theme for the party, but there you go.  I must be craving a martini...  Anyway, the sheep's milk here is nice and rich, with just a touch of oiliness on the lips after, and the juniper and balsamic lend a woodsy, salty, sweetness to the cheese.  Sometimes, I find that rind coatings don't make a  huge difference in the flavor of the cheese, but this combination of acid and fruit really come through here.  This cheese was perfect with the red wine from Calabria that I brought.  The gaglioppo grapes in this wine had just enough tannin without being too overwhelming, and the richness of the cheese gave extra body to an already delicious wine.  I'll be snaking on those cheese leftovers after dinner.

I am thrilled to be turning the last few months of Cheese Dreams into cheese realities!  What have you been tasting?


  1. I had a fantastic Pecorino last week but it went so fast I forgot to jot down the name! slightly softer than a Romano, but similar in bite with a very earthy almost truffle-like rind (brownish gray).
    I've been doing what I call "foodie lunchables" now that I'm on a work schedule that only allows a half hour lunch, Back to Nature stone ground wheat crackers, soy turkey or pepperoni, fruit and an appropriate cheese, Drunken Goat goes well with the turkey.

  2. I love Drunken Goat! Tasty, and it's fun to tell people what it is and watch their reaction.