The holiday season is upon us, and that's as good a reason as any to open a bottle of champagne. When I was ten, I was told by a champagne producer that every day was a good day for champagne, and that left an impression on me.
The holiday season is upon us, and that's as good a reason as any to open a bottle of champagne.
When I was ten, I was told by a champagne producer that every day was a good day for champagne, and that left an impression on me. I agree with him, but I think that just getting together with friends or family is an excellent reason to enjoy a beautiful bottle of bubbly over the holidays.
Recently, I helped organize some cheese pairings for a lovely champagne event. It was a great idea, and we found some favourites I'd love to share with you in case you need a piece of cheese for your celebrations over this busy month.
- Piave Vecchio is a hard cow's milk cheese from the Veneto region of northern Italy, with a DOP designation. It is sharp and fruity, with a clean, slightly salty finish. It's my go-to for champagne in general and a great pairing no matter what style you're enjoying.
- Grand Crème is a lovely dense triple cream cow's milk cheese from Bourgogne. Although you'll often read that triple creams are a good pairing with champagne, I usually don't agree, as triple creams can have a very strong bitter rind. Grand Crème, however, is rich, lactic, and has no strong taste to the rind. Pleasantly milky and almost a little sweet on the finish, it is perfect left out of the fridge for an hour or two with your glass of bubbles.
- Castelrosso is a new cheese to us this fall. It is made from raw cow's milk in Piemonte, Italy. It reminds me slightly of Castelmagno, a famous Piemontese cheese, but with a slightly more approachable flavour. Castelrosso has a brittle, flaky texture and a sharp, fresh, slightly sour, tangy taste. It is an unusual cheese, but I thought it might work for our last month's tasting, and people seemed to enjoy this match.
- Langres is an AOP designated soft-washed rind cheese made in the Champagne area. This full flavoured and aromatic cheese is brushed with the Marc de Champagne while it is ripening. I love the grassy flavour it has, and the lovely texture of the very soft runny outer layer with a slightly chalky centre. I'm not sure this is a good match for all champagne, but if you have a bottle with more toasty characteristics then I think it is a winner. Langres is one of my favourite cheeses in the world!
- Vacherin Mont d'Or is an amazing, unique cheese made in the eastern part of France or the western part of Switzerland. This AOP beauty is made only in wintertime, and is hand wrapped with a piece of spruce bark that heavily flavours the finished product. The texture is lush and amazing, with nutty, woodsy, grassy flavours. Good with champagne or just a spoon! Only available from October to February in Europe, we generally only see them in December, so if you are interested get some now.
- Comté Montagne is a classic AOP designated French mountain cheese. Typical of the style, it is made with raw cow's milk and is nutty and delicious. Depending on the age of the wheel, usually from 9 – 36 months, the taste can range from fruity and nutty when young to much sharper, saltier and a little earthier when aged. I would recommend a 24-30 month age as being the sweet spot to pair with your wine. Nice and sharp, but without too many earthy notes to distract you, Comté is a classic with many French wines for good reason.
- Mimolette Vieille is an extremely unique hard cheese from the north of France. For more info you can look at my article from a two months ago on Gismondi on Wine, but as for its champagne pairing properties, I think the sharp, full flavours are perfect with a crisp sparkling wine.
Pairing: As with most pairings when the wine is the star, I prefer to keep it simple. Many of these cheeses you could just have on their own, but if you wanted one for the soft cheese, I would pick something simple and crisp for a cracker, or a nice crusty baguette. Crisp green olives or roasted Marcona almonds are also nice for before dinner, and a nice match for both cheese and Champagne.
Enjoy your celebrations, and the best of the season to everyone.
Further reading: Gismondi on Wine's Champagne Annual 2024 with 117 reviews.
*photo credit Samantha Bianchini