Pairing Off: Supermarket Cheese

Each week, Pairing Off attempts to find just the right bottle of wine to go with ordinary food.

There's no real shame in picking up a brick of Colby, Monterey Jack or one of those so called "Swiss" cheeses you find on grocery shelves--not really. You can't make it to Scardello every day and those in-laws from Arkansas are fond of that orange stuff from Walmart.

Besides, shopping for inexpensive brands at the local grocer is relatively hassle-free. The blocks of Cheddar, Swiss and Monterey Jack I picked up for around $3 each from a supercenter all taste about the same.

Oh, the Jack showed some milky characteristics and the large, extremely cheap Swiss--the holes were more like dents--shared a flavor profile with tainted water. But even the Cheddar had a tang similar to the others.

Should make for an easy wine pairing, right?

Yes, in fact.

The wine guy at Majestic settled on Pinot Noir--a 2006 from Ventisquero in Chile, which presents a medley of fruit on the nose with some hints of fennel and a soft waft of something similar to strawberry parfait, yet tastes remarkably distinct from these aromatic clues. Each sip reveals a strong presence of tobacco and oak, backed up by more gentle flavors: vanilla, grass and tannins.

When savored with the cheese, something even more intriguing occurs. For instance, the Monterey Jack takes this wine and turns it into a stunning, velvety chocolate and cream excursion, rounded by notes akin to overripe plum, balsa wood and--if you can believe it--bacon. Cheddar finds some chocolate, but more of the pipe tobacco flavor while the wine imparts a tint of smoke to the cheese.

This is a rather dramatic shift.

It's a versatile wine and one of the best pairings thus far in our series. Only the so-called Swiss fails to draw out chocolate notes, instead sifting through the Pinot's fruitier side--and even that felt right.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.