Some of my most memorable food experiences have consisted of only three elements: wine, bread, and cheese. Each of these items comes in such variety that Sommeliers and their counterparts in the cheese and bread worlds – fromagiers and boulangers – can labor their entire lives without hope of fully mastering their respective fields. In this post, we’ll explore just a few of the endless and magical combinations that can bring both simplicity and elegance to your culinary life.
Champagne, Baguette, and Camembert
The first of this trio draws inspiration from the lighter side of French cuisine. Champagne is a region in France that lends its name to the most famous sparkling wine style in the world. Often made from a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier, Champagne is fermented in a distinctive style outlined in an earlier post that imparts a yeasty, toasty, flavor to complement notes of green apple, zesty citrus, and toasted almond.
Few foods are as iconic in France as the baguette. The dough is regulated by the French government, and though the shape is not, it invariably comes in a long loaf that allows for maximal crust. Camembert cheese – similar to brie, is made from cow’s milk and features a creamy texture and flavors described as earthy, eggy, and mushroomy. A little bit spread over baguette and washed down with a glass of Champagne will provide everything you need for a beautiful, French-style lunch.
Sancerre, Pain Boule, and Chevre
The village of Sancerre in the Loire Valley of France is home to picturesque and celebrated Sauvignon Blanc vineyards. Sancerre wine is dry and has bright, mineral acidity, an array of citrus flavors including lemon, lime, and grapefruit, with notes of honeysuckle, flowers, and fresh-cut grass.
Pain Boule takes its name from its round, bowl-like shape and might be recognizable to you as the classic “French bread” loaf. It has a soft, chewy texture but is rather mild and won’t compete with the Sancerre or the tangy funk of France’s renowned goat’s milk cheese: chèvre. The grassy elements in the wine will perfectly meld with the cheese and tie the whole combination together.
Chianti, Rye Bread, and Parmigiano Reggiano
Chianti is a red wine made from Sangiovese and usually blended with a variety of other grapes, including Canaiolo, Colorino, Merlot, and Syrah. The high concentration of Sangiovese – 80% to 100% – gives the wine a medium body, garnet color, dry tannic structure, and flavors of tart red fruit and forest floor, along with exotic spice notes like nutmeg.
Rye bread is known for showcasing the spicy characteristics of its grain and for having a hearty, dense texture. It can overpower some culinary companions, which is why it works so well with the robust Chianti and powerful parmigiano.
Speaking of parmigiano, this famous cheese was first mentioned in writing in the thirteenth century when a woman from Genoa traded her house to ensure regular shipments. It remains as popular as ever, and the genuine example from the Reggiano region of Italy is not to be missed. Parmigiano has a high fat content and strong flavor, making it the perfect accompaniment to the tannins in the wine and rich flavors of the bread.
With the endless choices of recipes available in the world, I encourage you not to overlook the simple delight of wine, bread, and cheese. Sometimes, it’s all you need.