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Wine & Cheese Pairing for December

Gruyere and Morbier

with Chateau Lugagnac Bordeaux Supérieur

Reviewed by Ziggy (Kiva Beer & Wine) and Josh (Kiva Deli)

The Wine:  Chateau de Lugagnac Bordeaux Supérieur 2009:  50 % Merlot Noir, 50 % Cabernet Sauvignon
Ziggy says:  On the nose I detected scents of cut wood, blackberries, wood ash, violet, and the wet leaf scent of autumn woods.
On the palate: lots of vibrant fruit, black currant and blackberry, with hints of charcoal, licorice, and toast.  The flavor seemed concentrated on the front of the palate, with a thinner back palate that reminded me of bourbon whiskey.
While at first sip it seemed like a big-bodied wine, it proved silky and evasive as it lingered in the mouth.  With its thinner texture, fine-grained tannins, and medium-long finish, Chateau de Lugagnac would be a good wine to enjoy with many foods, especially roasted meats and vegetables.


Delicious Duo: Morbier & Gruyere

The Cheeses:  Gruyere and Morbier

Gruyere, a classic Swiss cheese, is made with raw milk and has a big, vibrant, slightly sweet and nutty flavor. This is a perfect cheese for the holidayseason, whether for a cheese plate or everyone’s favorite, fondue. It is wonderful for cooking, whether melting over croutons for French onion soup or used in a gratin. Its versatility and big flavor makes this cheese a favorite.

Morbier, a raw milk cheese from France, has a beautifully silky texture broken by its signature layer of ash that provides a subtle but pleasantly gritty textural counterpoint. The flavor is complex and richly nutty, with a slight aromatic bitterness that is complimented nicely by a fruity red wine. The visual contrast between the ash and the white paste of the cheese makes this an intriguing addition to any cheese plate.
Morbier comes with a charming story to share with your guests. Traditionally, cheesemakers would press evening curd into a mold, brush their hands against blackened copper pots and spread the ash over the curds. The following day, the morning curd was pressed on top, creating the unique look of this cheese. (Modern day morbier is made with tasteless vegetable ash.)
The Pairings
Josh says:  The smooth, rich, full-bodied Bordeaux pairs nicely with both of these raw milk, nutty cheeses.
Ziggy says:  I have often found that Gruyere brings out the best in many wines, especially reds, and this pairing went very well–the Gruyere was scrumptious and savory, redolent with notes of nuts and roasted meat, rich without being buttery or heavy:  a grownup cheese that went very well with a grownup wine.  Its texture was firm, smooth, and slightly waxy, with a mouthfeel (not flavor) that reminded me of chocolate.
The Morbier was a little mild for my personal taste–older Morbier can be quite strong.  It was rich and buttery, smooth and meltingly rich.  As a pairing, it brought out bright cherry and black fruit notes in the wine.
In spite of my general preference for the Gruyere, I thought the Morbier worked better with the Lugagnac than the Gruyere did.  In either case, a juicy late-season pear would have made a perfect third.
There’s a venerable wine business maxim:  “Buy on fruit, sell on cheese.”   The tartness of fruit shows a wine’s flavor more starkly and highlights its flaws, whereas cheese softens harsh tannins, brings out fruit notes, and plays up a wine’s best side.  Gruyere and Morbier will probably bring out the best in any bottle.