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The Perfect Match

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OPINIONS VARY ABOUT PAIRING WINES WITH FOODS. SOME PEOPLE THINK IF A WINE IS OF GOOD QUALITY IT WILL GO WELL WITH ANYTHING, WHEREAS OTHERS TEND TO STICK TO A SINGLE FAVORITE, WHETHER IT BE RED, WHITE OR CAVA, AND ARE HAPPY TO DRINK IT WITH ANYTHING.

Both these approaches are perfectly valid because it is essentially a question of personal taste. There can be no dictates on likes or dislikes. If tastes are understood to be a source of pleasure, we have to accept that they are a matter of individual preference. But those who like to impose their own views of what is right and wrong have often utilized the question of wine. Such people insist that we should drink white wine with fish and shellfish and red wine with meat. According to this theory, harmony between a wine and a food depends on the color of the wine and this, to me, seems to be an insult to the intelligence of wine-drinkers. In my opinion, color has nothing to do with it. The color of a wine is just an accident of birth, a matter of esthetics. What really matters is its taste. Pairing wine with food is a question of balancing flavors. A good relationship depends on combining flavors of similar intensity and this approach, if successful, leads to a whole world of possibilities. When we try to find the right combination between a dish and a wine we hope to gain additional pleasure. It is not a matter of enjoying the food on the one hand and the wine on the other but of enjoying both together, bringing together the sensory stimuli - the aromas and flavors - of both the food and the drink.

This means that neither one nor the other should predominate. Neither the flavor of the wine should be stronger than that of the food, nor vice versa. The flavor and aroma of the wine should blend with those of the food-giving rise to different sensations that are generally much more complex, delicate, and pleasing.

A STARTING-POINT [TOP]

There is no absolute truth for partnering Sherries with cheese. The result of any combination may vary according to factors such as the maturity of the cheese, the length of the ripening period, the type of pasture the milk came from (summer grazing gives a milk with a much lower fat content) or the stage of development of the wine. The findings of the tasting-session, therefore, can serve only as an indication or a starting-point in the search for similar combinations. The name "sherry" is given to wines produced in the area of the Denomination of Origin for Jerez-Xeres-Sheny and Manzanflla - Sanlucar de Barrameda, located in the west of the province of Cadiz in the Autonomous Community of Andalusia. The Denomination of Origin covers 10,600 hectares (26,192 acres) of vineyards,94% of which grow the Palomino variety. Four per cent grow Pedro Xim6nezand the D.O. also allows two other white varieties - Palomino de Jerezand Moscatel. The personality of these wines and their international prestige (they are the best known of Spanish wines outside Spain) make this one of the most important wine-growing areas of Spain.

TETILLA AND PALECREAM [TOP]

The basic characteristic of Tetilla cheese is the lightness of its flavor, as with all cows' milk cheeses that are only lightly matured.  Tetilla, produced in Galicia, in the northwest of Spain, is at its best when cured for less than one month. It is a creamy, soft, and mild-flavored cheese, which combines perfectly with the slight sweetness of Pale Cream.  The bitter touch to the wine and its sweetness, help to recover the delicate flavor of the Tetilla and combine to give very subtle and pleasant, though short-lasting, flavors. It is surprising to see that, although the flavor of Tetilla cheese is not persistent, when combined with Pale Cream its presence on the palate lasts longer. The cheese flavor is prolonged and its personality is brought out.

RONCALAND PEDRO XIMENEZ [TOP]

Roncal is produced in the Roncal Valley in the Pyrenees within the Autonomous Community of Navarre to the north of Spain. It isa ewe's milk cheese with a springy texture and the cheese for the tasting-session is medium-cured. Its taste is slightly piquant, the tang combining well with the balanced sour and salty tastes. Its flavor is profound and persistent. The sweetness and raisin aroma of the Pedro Ximenez initially predominate, concealing the taste of the cheese, but gradually the wine taste loses intensity and blends with the cheese and the bitter, sour, sweet, and salty tones combine together giving rise to much more complex, mild, delicate, and very pleasant aromas.

GARROTXA AND OLOROSO [TOP]

Garrotxa cheese is produced in La Garrotxa in the province of Gerona, in the northeast comer of the Autonomous Community of Catalonia.We chose a short-cured cheese which is basically acid, being a goat's milk cheese. It has earthy, spicy aromas with plenty of nuances. The aftertaste is both sour and bitter.

The character of the Oloroso, especially it's smoky aromatic tones, combines with those of the cheese, giving a multitude of nuances. The result is extremely elegant; the acidity gives way to the bitter notes giving a complex mix of aromas. After a while, the acidity of the cheese comes back.

MANCHEGO AND MANZANILLA [TOP]

There is no more popular cheese nor any that is better known in Spain than Manchego, produced in the Community of Castile-La Manchain the center of Spain. The cheese used in this tasting-session is short-to-medium cured. Manchego cheese can undergo various degrees of curing. This determines its characteristics, the longest-cured cheeses having a piquant and very intense flavor. This cheese is distinguished by the elegance of the flavor typical of ewe's milk that points to careful preparation. A very well balanced and pleasant flavor that is persistent on the palate and very aromatic. The aromatic intensity of manzanilla makes it an excellent foil for this cheese. The result is a magnificent combination of aromas giving new sensations of complexity and elegance. Each brings out the flavor of the other and the fresh aromas are reminiscent of flowers, nuts, and lavender.

CABRALESAND PEDRO XIMINEZ [TOP]

Cabrales comes from the Picos de Europa in the east of the Autonomous Community of Asturias in the Cantabrian Mountains. This is a naturally-fermented blue cheese made of cow's milk to which small quantities of ewe or goat's milk are sometimes added. The degree of ripeness characterizes the cheese. On this occasion the cheese selected was one that had undergone only a short ripening period, with a creamy paste that had not yet been completely invaded by the penicillin bacteria. Its sharp taste, which is both piquant and sour, is toned down in combination with the sweetness of Pedro Xim6nez giving pleasant, very complex sensations. The result is a balanced and complex combination of sour, salty, sweet, and bitter tastes.

IDIAZABALAND PALO CORTADO [TOP]

Idiazabal is produced with ewe's milk in the mountainous teas of the provinces of Alava, Vizcaya and Guipuzcoa (in the Basque Autonomous Community) and in part of Navarre, that is, in the north of Spain close to the French frontier. We used an un-smoked Idiazdbal (there are several alternatives - un-smoked or various degrees of smoking). This cheese has a buttery paste and a slightly tangy flavor, which the palate perceives slowly together with its salty tones. It is persistent, intense, and pleasant. The combination with the sherry dampens the insistent piquancy of the cheese, causing sensations that are pleasant and harmonious. The balance remains, although the taste of the Idiaz:ibal is strong and seems as if it is going to predominate, but after a few seconds the sherry comes into its own.

IBORES AND FINO [TOP]

We used one of the two varieties of lbores (one has a hard, dark crust where as the crust of the one used is coated with prika).  This cheese is produced from goat's milk in the north of the province of Caceres, in the Autonomous Community of Extremadura, close to the frontier between Spain and Portugal. It is a fairly soft cheese with a compact mass and, being made of goat's milk, is slightly acid. Its flavor is intense but not at all aggressive. The fino is best chilled at about 7 or 80C (44.6or 46.4,F) to tone down its flavor and reduce its aromatic intensity. The bitter almond nuance of the fino combines to perfection with the acidity of the cheese, creating a slightly pungent but very pleasant and delicate taste. The personality of the sherry is noticeable but does not predominate.

LA SERENAAND PEDRO XIMINEZ [TOP]

The area of production of La Serena cheese is concentrated Lin the Serena and Castuera areas of Badajoz, one of the two provinces in the Autonomous Community of Extremadura along the western border of Spain. This is one of the most unusual cheeses produced in Spain. It is made of ewe's milk but the characteristics of the local pasturelands make the milk exceptionally rich in fats. The result is a cheese with a profound and insistent flavor that is bitter and slightly sour. The texture is so creamy that when properly ripened it becomes spreadable. The cheese used in the tasting-session is creamy so it combines magnificently with the Pedro Ximenez. In partnership, the strength and aggressiveness of both cheese and sherry disappear and the sherry seems less sweet, the predominant aromas being young and fruity, from the Pedro Ximenez grapes.

IBIRICO AND CREAM [TOP]

This cheese is made throughout Spain from a blend of ewes, goat's and cow's milk. The paste has an elastic texture. Its flavors are balanced but leave behind a slight acidity.

The characteristics of this cream sherry combine perfectly with the flavors of the cheese, creating a complex of intense, persistent and elegant aromas. A subtle blend and a real pleasure.

MAJORERO AND PALE CREAM [TOP]

Majorero is a splendid representative of the less well-known cheeses of Spain - those made in the Canaries, the southernmost territory of Europe in the Atlantic Ocean off the African coast. Made on the island of Fuerteventura, with goat's milk, this cheese has a springy texture, is slightly acid with mild and rather persistent flavor and very fresh aromas. It is mild, delicate, pleasant, and gives a slightly salty aftertaste. When combined with Pale Cream the result is unexpected. The character of the cheese is quickly toned down by the sweetness of the wine, which disappears as it mitigates the most aggressive charact eristics of the cheese. The slight bitterness of the wine then takes over, giving rise to a wide range of the spicy aromas that are typical of OIoroso sherries. Altogether, the combination gives very complex and persistent flavors and aromas.

ZAMORANO AND CREAM [TOP]

Zamorano cheese is produced from ewe's milk following the same procedures as with Manchego cheese but it comes from the province of Zamora in the Autonomous Community of Castfle and Leon. The cheese used is medium to very ripe and has a buttery texture. Its flavor is slightly piquant, intense, and pungent. As with Manchego cheese, there are two ways of ripening it - either with short curing, giving a delicate, fresh cheese, or well cured making it piquant, pungent and aggressive. The sweetness of the cream sherry combines with the piquant tones of the cheese so that both are toned down. The final result is complex, very pleasant, full of nuances, and very persistent on the palate. The elegance of the combination is remarkable.

MAHON AND PALOCORTADO [TOP]

Mahon cheese is from the island of Menorca, one of the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean. It is a buttery or creamy cows milk cheese. Its flavor is mild but the aftertaste is slightly acid and salty, or even bitter. It is light and not very persistent.

The Palo Cortado brings out the personality of the cheese, stressing its characteristics. The flavor of the wine seems to predominate but it gradually loses strength and allows the taste of the cheese to return. The combination is very pleasant, giving very subtle sensations.


WINE CHART  [TOP]
MANZANILLA

Type of wine: dry Grape variety: Palomino Alcohol content:15.5% approx. Fine wine produced in San I Cicar de Barrameda. With delicate aromas, lighter than fino hut without the aromatic complexity and structure of fino.

 

AMONTILLADO

Type of wine: dry Grape variety: Palomino Alcohol content:17% approx. Brilliant amber color of delicate and rich flavor. Smooth and elegant on the palate.

 

OLOROSO

Type of wine: dry Grape variety: Palomino Alcohol content:19% approx. With a deep amber shine, it offers the richness and intense aromas given by a long aging process. With a velvety, finish, it is a dry, deep, and smooth sherry.

 

CREAM

Type of wine: sweet Oloroso Grape varieties: Palomino and Pedro Xim6nez Alcohol content: 17.5% approx. Shiny mahogany color. Combines the aromas of Oloroso wine with hints of old oak and raisin. Smooth, slightly sweet, and very pleasant.

 

FINO

Type of wine: dry Grape variety: Palomino Alcohol content:15.5% approx. Pale gold color, pungent but delicate aroma reminiscent of almonds light, and dry. Mainly p roduced in jerez de la Frontera and El Puerto de Santa Maria.

 

PALO CORTADO

Type of wine: dry Grape variety: Palomino Alcohol content:18% approx. With a dark amber color, somewhere between Amontillado and Oloroso, it has the aromas of Amontillado and the structure and flavor of  Oloroso.

 

PALE CREAM

Type of wine: sweet Grape variety: Palomino Alcohol content:17% approx. Fino wine with a sweet taste due to the addition of concentrated and rectified grape must. Pale gold color with delicate floral aromas. Very light and smooth on the palate.

 

PEDRO XIMINEZ

Type of wine: sweet Grape variety: Pedro Ximenez. Alcohol content: 17% approx. Dark mahogany color with an amber aura. A complex and harmonious aroma full of nuances but with the raisin flavor predominating. Dense, velvety, and very persistent on the palate.

 


CHEESE CHART  [TOP]
D.O. TETILLA

Area of production: Galicia Type of milk: pasteurized cow's milk from Galician Rubia and Friesian breeds Minimum fat content:45% of dry matter Short ripening period, very creamy. Characteristic breast shape. Yellowish rind, soft and creamy paste with an ivory yellow color.

 

D.O. IDIAZABAL

Area of production: Alava, Vizcaya and Guipuzcoa (BasqueCountry), and part of Navaffe Type of milk: raw ewe's milk from Latxa sheep Minimum fat content: 45% of dry matter Wheel-shaped with smooth, greasy, bright yellow to orange rind. Compact, buttery, yellowish paste with some holes. Strong tastes, slightly piquant, and sour.

 

D.O. MANCHEGO

Area of production: Castile-La Mancha Type of milk: pasteurized ewe's milk from Manchega sheep (also made from raw milk) Minimum fat content:50% of dry matter Wheel-shaped. Pale yellow or black-gray rind with plaiting marks around the sides. Firm, compact paste varying from ivory white to yellowish.

 

D.O. LA SERENA

Area of production: La Serena (Extremadura) Type of milk: raw ewe's milk from Merino sheep Minimum fat content: 50% of dry matter Shallow wheel shape. Semi-hard, dry and smooth rind. Soft paste of white or yellowish color that becomes spread able when fully ripe.

 

IBORES

Area of production: Caceres (Extremadura) Type of milk: raw goat's milk from the Retinta breed of Extremadura Minimum fat content:50% of dry matter Wheel-shaped cheese characterized by the paprika coating on its rind. White, mild and buttery paste.

 

IBERICO

Area of production: throughout Spain Type of milk: pasteurized ewe's, goat and cow's milk Minimum fat content: 54% of dry matter Wheel-shaped with dark yellow rind. Sides with plait marks. Whitish-yellow paste. Mild and buttery flavor.

 

D.O. ZAMORANO

Area of production: Zamora (Castile-Leon) Type of milk: raw ewe's milk from Castellana and Churra sheep Minimum fat content: 45%of dry matter Wheel-shaped with a smooth, dark grayish rind. Firm, hard, yellowish paste with no holes. Strong taste but not piquant. Aromatic.

 

MAJORERO

Area of production: Fuerteventura (Canary Islands) Type of milk: raw and pasteurized goat's milk from the Canary breed Minimum fat content: 55% of dry matter Wheel-shaped, 7-8 cm high. Light brown rind with the marks of the mold formed with palm leaves. Yellow paste with small holes.

 

D.O. MAHON

Area of production: Menotca (Balearic Islands) Type of milk: pasteurized cow's milk from Friesian cows Minimum fat content: 38%of dry matter Loaf-shaped with a yellow crust. Compact yellowish-white paste.

 

D.O. CABRALES

Area of production: Picos de Europa (Asturias) Type of milk: raw cow's milk, and occasionally small quantities of ewe's and goat's milk Minimum fat content: 45% of dry matter Moldy and greasy rind, soft and buttery paste with green-blue veining. Has the piquant, salty and aggressive taste that is characteristic of blue cheeses.

 

D.O. RONCAL

Area of production: Valle del Roncal (Navarre) Type of milk: raw ewe's milk from Latxa and Rasa sheep Minimum fat content: 50%of dry matter Wheel-shaped with a smooth, reddish-brown rind. Hard paste with holes. White to yellow color. Strong, slightly sharp taste.

 

GARROTXA

Area of production: La Garrotxa, Gerona (Catalonia) Type of milk: pasteurized goat's milk from Murcia, Granada, and Malaga goats Minimum fat content: 50% of dry matter Wheel-shaped, rind covered with dark gray mold. Soft white paste without holes

 

 

Text: Ignacip Medina   
Photos: A.De Benito 

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