Mar 11, 2014

The Right Wine: Bouchon de Sancerre


Wine and cheese go to together like, well, wine and cheese.

Rather than give you specific wine pairings for each cheese -- which assumes that you will be able to find both the exact cheese and the exact wine mentioned, here are a few basic guidelines for choosing a wine to pair with cheese. In any event, I find individual cheese/wine recommendations irritating, because usually I'm having more than one at a time, and what am I supposed to do -- drink five glasses with my cheese course?

One of the basic rules of thumb for French cheeses is that terroire -- the land it grows on -- is important to the flavor and characteristics of the cheese. Since this is also an important principal in wines, you won't be surprised to hear that French people often recommend pairing a cheese with a wine from the same region. At the very least, you generally won't go wrong this way.

1) For both soft and/or stronger-flavored cheeses, white wines are generally a safe bet. A site called, appropriately, 2baSnob offers this explanation "Several cheeses, particularly soft and creamy ones, leave a layer of fat on the palate that interferes with the flavor in reds, rendering them monotonous and bland."

2) For hard and/or milder-flavored cheeses, red wines.

3) Some say that the stronger the cheese, the sweeter the wine should be. Or, at least, the stronger the wine should be, including a robust red. This would seem to contradict rule #1 completely, which just goes to show that no matter how much expert advice you get, it can't be pinned down. In the end, it comes down to taste.

Also, if you're serving a whole platter, these recommendations just aren't that helpful. As a cheese course after dinner, my personal preference is a lovely, fruity Sancerre or a white dessert wine, especially a Sauternes, Monbazillac, Barsac  (or non-French Muscato, Gewurztraminer, or Riesling, for example) which I think goes with every cheese: blue, goat, cheep, cow, hard, soft, strong, and mild. Also, I like the contrast of the savory/salty cheeses and the sweet/fruity wine. Then again, if you've seen my penchant for honeys and jams, you might already know that.

THE CHEESE: Bouchon de Sancerre

Bouchon de Sancerre, which means "Sancerre Cork", is a raw goat's milk cheese that comes from the Sancerre area in Berry, in the Loir-et-Cher department in central France. It's a small cheese -- exactly the size and shape of a wine cork. It's aged a minimum of one week, which doesn't sound like much, but just remember how small it is and that that's only the minimum.

Though I haven't seen them super-aged in person, I've seen this picture where they have obviously been aged for weeks and weeks, until they shrivel a little and turn a hue that can't be described as anything but cork-colored.

It's a lovely bite of a cheese -- a mild goat flavor, and surprisingly soft considering how small and firm it is. The outside crust has its own texture and even a slightly stronger flavor. My friend Kim calls it "two cheeses in one."

The connection seems pretty obvious -- a cheese exactly the size and shape of a wine cork, whose name means "Sancerre Cork". It comes from the same region as Sancerre wine, and with its goaty, salty flavor, it's a perfect match with a Sancerre wine, which just happens to be one of my very favorite whites. 
While I'm at it, though, I must tell you that I also found this Bouchon de Brebis. I'll just have to find another story to go with it.


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