I stopped into wholefoods and bought a couple affordable cheeses and a baguette to make an easy lunch. I then sat down with the cheeses and a couple vermouths I had open and tried to see what happened. With vermouth even successful pairings can be beyond the words I know, but I’ll try.
The first cheese was a small cut of Marcillat Alsatian Munster. The cheese is very creamy, sort of nutty, and rather stinky. My cheese sensory evaluation skills are very amateur so hopefully I’m conveying a good description.
The first vermouth I tried it with the was a very ancient Cinzano Reserva dry vermouth (chilled) which is based on chardonnay, probably at least 15 years old and has some serious old wine character. Food really seems to wake it up. The dry vermouth melts right into the cheese and the weights of each match well. The cheese seems to bring out some of the banana flavors in the wine.
Chilled Stock brand sweet vermouth pairs pleasurably with the Munster and again one doesn’t really over power the other. What happens is rather difficult to evaluate but the vermouth seems to reflect back into focus some of the stinkiness of the cheese.
The second cheese was Petite Reblochon de Savoie. It is much firmer than the Munster but still soft. Overall a similar cheese but sort of milder. The Reblochon may have been a little over ripe as there was a faint ammonia character. I was told that is a hazard of buying small cuts at wholefoods.
Though the cheeses seem similar, the Cinzano reaction is different than with the Munster. The cheese seems to make the wine seem more alcoholic and strip away the fruit. The reaction is very subtle but overall it probably doesn’t pair well. Perhaps the vermouth is too dry.
The reaction from the Stock sweet vermouth is very delicate and the cheese seems to make the fruit of the vermouth taste like dark brooding berries.
Because the Reblochon was a bigger cut, I had some cheese left over and decided to taste it with Gallo’s dry vermouth which I’ve never had before. Gallo’s dry is actually kind of horrible. The fruit character of the wine is over the top. Kind of akin to how the fruit character sticks out on fresh Martini Rossi but much more so. The muscat character becomes as inelegant as a concord grape wine. The botanical weight also seems to be much lighter than imported dry vermouths and the whole product seems not very adult. The vermouth may be too dry for the cheese because it makes the fruit of the wine taste even thinner and draws out the ammonia character of the potentially overripe cheese. But I do give Gallo points for a pretty label.