Saint Cosme Cotes-du-Rhone and Gruyere
We’re back! It’s been awhile since we’ve teamed up to choose a cheese and wine pairing for the Kiva’s blog! This month’s tasting team is comprised of Ziggy, the Kiva’s winebuyer; Kazar, Cheesebuyer and Wine Department; and Janet, who works with Supplements and Housewares.
The wine we chose is Saint Cosme 2013, a Syrah from France’s Cotes-du-Rhone region, a major player in the French wine trade. It’s a large region with many different terroirs. According to the winemaker’s notes, St. Cosme is grown in soil with “limestony sands, red clay, and rolling stones.”
While I’m not sure about the rolling stones, there is a nice mineral component of this wine. St. Cosme has a lovely nose with hints of charcoal, cooked blackberries, and dusty Mediterranean herbs. The mouth was silky and nimble; it drinks like a light wine but has a medium body. The blackberry and herbal notes come through on the palate, with spice, pepper, and a clean mineral edge. The tannins are light and soft. The wine delivers plenty of fruit with just a hint of bitterness that is desirable in a table wine.
Gruyere, an aged, raw-milk cheese from Switzerland, is technically a Swiss cheese, but a very different critter than what we usually refer to as “Swiss cheese,” best known for its eyes (or holes) such as Jarlsberg, Emmenthaler, and the familiar American version of these whose mellow and rubbery presence is featured on many a ham sandwich.
I, for one, don’t much like most Swiss cheese. I find its flavor flat, like a soda that has lost its fizz. Gruyere, on the other hand, is one of my favorites as an all-around wine cheese. Its smooth texture–a little like chocolate in the way it melts luxuriously on the palate–is sometimes enhanced by a few crystals in the paste, and its sweet/salty/rich/nutty flavor, seem to go well with many, many wines, especially dry French reds. Common culinary uses for Gruyere include fondues and a traditional topping for French onion soup.
Gruyere is creamy & nutty when young, becoming more assertive, earthy, and complex with age (typically aged from 5 to 10 months). We tried two varieties of Gruyere, Emmi, aged in the standard fashion in a climate-controlled cellar, and Mifroma, aged traditionally in a cave for 11 months. The milk for both of these cheeses comes from sustainably-raised cows pastured on grass in the summer and fed hay in the winter, lending a subtle herbal note to the cheese.
Emmi is sweet, mild, rich, firm, and savory. Its flavor is stronger near the rind with a bit of barnyard funk. It’s delicious as part of a cheese plate or in any recipe which calls for Gruyere.
The Mifroma has a slightly drier paste and is subtler, stronger, more buttery and a bit less sweet, with more crystals to add contrast to the smooth texture. The more complex flavors emerge as you chew.
The vivid contrast of the dry, herbal wine with the sweet, unctuous cheese brings out the rich berry notes of the St. Cosme and downplays the (nicely balanced) acidic and bitter factors. The wine, with its clean finish, refreshes and resets the palate.
There’s an old saying in the wine trade,”buy on fruit (or bread, or water, or even carrots) and sell on cheese.” The former tend to make the taster’s palate clear and crisp, which helps accentuate any defects in the flavors of wine. Cheese, on the other hand, brings out rich and mellow notes in wine and helps disguise its shortcomings (and therefore makes it easier to sell). The St. Cosme, which is interesting and nicely balanced, has no need of cheese to downplay any faults, but cheese can also enhance and elevate beautiful wines.
St. Cosme would be appropriate in many food applications, particularly with cheesy and savory herbal dishes, and is a good value for its reasonable price.
The sweet & salty, sharp quality of the cheese balanced nicely with the delicate, tannic, dark fruit of the wine. The subtlety of flavor the wine possessed created a pleasing foundation; the cheese pierced through to rich and full heights on the palate.
Janet was moved to poetry:
The Mifroma Cave-Aged Gruyere has a nutty flavor and texture which slowly releases its complexity, and then lingers sweetly on your tongue.
As you sip and swallow that almost buttery wine while the cheese is dissolving you realize how that delicious and delicate blend of wine and cheese blend like fruit in a pie shell, balance each other with a feeling of togetherness.
A delicious and delicate balance of wine and cheese that blends like
An onion and tears
A pear and peanut butter
A banana in a smoothie
Like soil and rain
As the sunrise over the mountain through the sky
Like chocolate upon the tongue
Like a river flows into the ocean
Like a dancer on the floor
Like a wind in the woods.