Originally Posted by gomestar
CG how do you go about doing hard pairings ... like pairing wine and cheese.
Blue cheeses especially, which I think totally sucks with wine (and if you're not careful, your glass/wine end up smelling like blue cheese). It's so weird how people think wine and cheese should be married, but most of the time I think they just don't work well together.
I totally get where you are coming from. I routinely tell staff in training, and customers, that to REALLY nail a wine/cheese pairing is very, very difficult... for many reasons.
The primary being it is a completely individual moment. Your palate may respond to tartness in a way I don't for example, same with salt. So what might be perfect for me is off for you. And just when you think you have it sorted, the next wheel of cheese tastes different, or you have a different vintage. You might put together pairings for a house party that work for you but leave many of your guests cold. People are going eat and drink what/how they want.
So the best answer I stress is to "relax" and not stress it too much. Though, LOL, you should see me sweat when creating pairings for our ticketed classes, THOSE I really do want to get right when you have 26 people having the same moment and listening to me extol the pairing. Sucks to have 26 people give you immediate feedback of WTH? While that's not happened, I get everybody talking about what they liked/didn't with each - that's really why they are there, to have an experience.
You probably know this but you want your pairing to:
1) at the very least allow the wine and the cheese to be as good paired as they are individually.
2) allow either the wine or the cheese to be improved by the pairing without harming the other.
3) both are elevated to another level. That's the ideal.
Anyway, in the shop I try to work within a narrower range of parameters to try for a chance at more broadly pairing successfully. We keep a very short wine list, usually 6-8 each reds and whites by the glass, generally typical styles; I try to bring all of their profiles a bit "into the middle", meaning if it is a VERY light white I look for a slightly bolder example, a very BOLD red, something a little softer. It helps in that it's more forgiving.
Personally, I think pairings work best when you balance acidity. A tangy goat cheese that crushes a delicate sauv blanc is no fun, and vice versa.
Blues are hard especially given the wide range of styles and flavors and high saltiness but there are a few easy outs. For blue cheese, the easy cheat is to include honey with the cheese. A bright blue drizzled in a light, floral honey paired with Moscato is always a win, even with customers who say they don't like blue.
What you say about the odor/taste in the glass can be true too. If you're being a purist, it's best to keep the blue course to last. or follow with a washed rind course for the same reason.
Even without the honey, anything sweet like Sauterne or Gewurztraminer can forgive a lot. And the obvious fortified/heavy choices like tawnies, some sherries and similar. I once drizzled stilton with a 60's vintage port sort of like a reduction. Worked. A coffee-rubbed cheese bridges the gap to a big, jammy red with lots of coffee/chocolate/tobacco etc. But it's a little like covering a protein in a heavy sauce for the sake of the pairing.
Keeping what I said about balancing acidity in mind, there are a few pairings that, regardless of the cheese and specific wine, work far more often than not. One is the cliche/obvious: Sauv Blanc & young or ripened goat cheese. The Loire produces lows of both for a reason. There's logic in their 1000+ years of practice. It's rare that we cannot put two together and have a fair pairing.
One not as obvious and one of my fav's is un-oaked chardonnay (like regular Macon Village level chard) with clothbound cheddars (like British cheddars). Both have ample minerality and acidity. Oaked chard can accentuate the buttery aspects of cheddar but I find most have blunted acidity. YMMV. And finally: Bubbles cure just about everything.
Lately I'm also fond of pairing Rose of Nebbiolo with a certain parm. Delicious.
I used to think (sorta still do) that pairing beer is much easier. Carbonation FTW. But it's been demonstrated to me that to really nail it is probably about as complicated. Sheep's milk cheeses in particular are really hard to pair with 90% of the brews I've tried.