A Wine and Cheese Pairing Party #MadeInFrance

During the month of October, Whole Foods Market (“WFM”) is promoting wines and cheeses of France.  You’ll find a bountiful selection of both at 300+ Whole Foods locations in 42 states.   As part of their promotion, Whole Foods Market has provided select members of the French #Winophiles group with a case of French wines and a gift card to purchase cheeses. I am blessed among them.

If you’re looking for one-stop shopping for a French-themed wine and cheese pairing party, look no further than Whole Foods Market!  

What to do with a case of French wine and a bunch of French cheese (admittedly as “good problem” to have)?

Viola!  Have a wine and cheese party!

My wife and I invited members of our wine tasting club  to our home with a simple proposition.  We’ll provide the wine and cheeses.  You bring some food!

There were 13 of us for a case of wine…sounds about right don’t you think?! 😉

The Wines

  • Jacques Bardelot, Champagne Brut (SRP – $29.99)
  • 2015 Criterion, Chablis (SRP – $19.99)
  • 2016 Domaine de la Fruitiere, Muscadet Gneiss de Bel Abord Sur Lie (SRP – $13.99)
  • 2016 Domaine Paul Buisse, Touraine Sauvignon (SRP – $12.99)
  • 2012 Trimbach, Pinot Gris Reserve (SRP –  $22.99)
  • 2016 Château D’Esclans, Whispering Angel Rosé ((SRP – $21.99)
  • 2016 Vignobles des Roches, Morgon (SRP –  $16.99)
  • 2015 Alain de la Treille (Famille Bougrier), Chinon ((SRP – $19.99)
  • 2015 Paul Jaboulet Ainé Biographie, Cotes du Rhône ((SRP – $14.99)
  • 2015 Château de Lascaux, Coteaux de Languedoc Rouge ((SRP – $17.99)
  • 2015 Château Haut-Cadet, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2015 ((SRP – $24.99)
  • 2014 Clos Siguier, Cahors (SRP –  $14.99)

An excellent and diverse selection of wines from all over France  including Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Loire Valley, Alsace, Cahors, Provence, Languedoc-Rousillion and the Rhone Valley.  I was very pleased to see that 8 of the 12 wines were $20 or less!

The list bespeaks the challenge with French wine for many American consumers.  The wines are labeled based on the region of origin rather than by the name of the grape.  Therefore, names like Chinon (Cabernet Franc), Cahors (Malbec) or even Chablis (Chardonnay) can be confusing if you’re looking for wines made from specific grape varieties.   It takes a bit of effort to associate the names of the region with the grapes grown and made into wine in that region, but it’s worth it!

I’ll be blogging about the wines in the coming weeks. But what I can tell you now is that the Jacques Bardelot Champagne, 2012 Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve, 2015 Paul Jaboulet Ainé Biographie were the first three empty bottles.  The 2015 Château Haut-Cadet, Saint-Émilion, 2016 Château D’Esclans, Whispering Angel Rosé, and the 2014 Clos Siguier, Cahors were not far behind!

The Cheeses

WFM provided a list of recommended cheeses for each of the wines in an article entitled “Q&A with Our Experts: 12 French Wine + Cheese Pairings You’ve Got to Try

Armed with the list, I went shopping.  Based  on the combination of the availability  of cheeses on the list at two WFM I visited and prioritizing new to me cheese, I purchased the following cheeses (see photo below for the wine and cheese pairings):

  • Mons St. Nuage; Decadent, rich and luscious triple-crème French Brie with refined balance of flavors coming through in the smooth, almost whipped, texture.  A WFM exclusive! Paired with: Jacques Bardelot, Champagne
  • ComteA hard cheese from the Franche-Comté is the Swiss Alps, Comté was one of the first cheeses in France to earn the PDO designation — Protected Designation of Origin — from the European Union. This means that for Comté cheese to truly be Comté cheese, it can only be made within a certain area and following a certain fairly strict procedure. It is renowned for its spicy, nutty, buttery flavor and unique appearance.  Paired with: 2015 Criterion, Chablis
  • Saint Angel; A luxurious triple-creme  covered with a fluffy, white rind with a hint of mushroom flavor.  Beneath its rind lies an ivory paste with the texture of chilled, whipped butter. Its flavor is buttery, too, with the just the right amount of salt, a savory tanginess.  Paired with: 2015 Paul Jaboulet Ainé Biographie
  • MimoletteA firm, electric orange cheese from the Normandy region of France.  If you look closely near the rind of the cheese you’ll see tiny holes. They’re not air bubbles. No.  Those holes are the work of cheese mites. The mites are introduced to add flavor to the cheese (which gets its beautiful orange hue from a natural dye called annatto).  Essentially, as they burrow through the cheese and devour the rind, they promote air flow and flavor development as the cheese ages.  The cheese is intensely flavored with sweet , carmelized depth and a smooth, fudgy finish.  Paired with: 2015 Alain de la Treille (Famille Bougrier), Chinon
  • Isigny Ste. Mère Bonhomme Brie; From Normandy, a luscious buttery French Brie that you can only get at WFM, with soft grassy notes and creamy hints of mushroom. Paired with: 2012 Trimbach, Pinot Gris Reserve
  • P’tit BasqueP’tit Basque is a 100% pure sheep’s milk cheese produced in France’s Basque region in the Pyrenees Mountains.  It is semi-hard cheese with the distinctive aroma of sheep’s milk, and a smooth, sweet flavor with a nutty finish. Paired with:  2016 Domaine de la Fruitiere, Muscadet 

All the cheeses were fabulous in their own way.  The soft double and triple creme cheeses disappeared first.  But there was one cheese that clearly stood above the rest –  the  Mons St. Nuage.  It is insanely delicious and creamy.  Simply put, it is a deathbed cheese for me!  The P’tit Basque was the most popular of the firm cheeses. 

The Wine and Cheese Pairings

Of the recommended wine and cheese pairings we tried, four stood out for me:

The St. Nuage/Jacques Bardelot Champagne was the crowd favorite.  My favorite was the Isigny Ste. Mère Bonhomme Brie/Trimbach, Pinot Gris Reserve. Likewise, I thought the Comte/2015 Criterion Chablis and the P’tit Basque/ 2016 Domaine de la Fruitiere, Muscadet pairings were outstanding!

While I adored the Mimolette cheese, I thought it overwhelmed the Chinon a bit.  Similarly, I adored the Saint Angel, but the I thought the Paul Jaboulet Biographie, a blend of  Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre overwhelmed the cheese (bias alert: I’ve enjoyed this cheese many times with Champagne and I love the pairing)

Of course as the saying goes, “Your mileage may vary”.   And isn’t that part of what make such event so enjoyable?  Trying new wines or cheeses and finding the one that make you swoon!

Other Notable Food and Wine Pairings

After we tasted through the WFM recommended wine and cheese pairings,  we were pretty hungry.  We had a nice assortment of food including Boneless Short Rib and Polenta, Pulled Pork Sliders, Korean Fried Chicken, fried calamari and a couple of desserts!

Deep fried squash blossom filled with goat cheeseDeep fried squash blossom filled with goat cheese
Boneless Rib with PolentaBoneless Rib with Polenta
Pulled Pork Slider and SlawPulled Pork Slider and Slaw

Of course, trying the recommended wine and cheese pairings was fun.  But the best part of the party for me is breaking bread and enjoying food and wine with friends!

There a few notable pairings  for me that materialized during the “after-party”.  My wife made some deep-fried  squash blossoms stuffed with goat cheese.  Those were wonderful paired with the Whispering Angel Rosé and the Domaine Paul Buisse Touraine Sauvignon!  Likewise,  I really enjoyed the Boneless Short Ribs and Polenta with both the 2014 Clos Siguier, Cahors  and the 2015 Château Haut-Cadet, Saint-Émilion. Finally, the Pulled Pork Sliders were delightful paired with both the Paul Jaboulet Ainé Biographie, and the 2015 Château de Lascaux, Coteaux de Languedoc Rouge.

The best pairing of all?  Friends, Wine and Food!

If you’re looking for one-stop shopping for a French themed wine and cheese pairing party, look no further than Whole Foods Market!   The selection of cheeses is simply amazing and if the wines we tried are any indication they’ve got a great selection of wines at fair prices!

Vive La France!

Great Ideas for French Wines and Cheeses
Take a look at all the great French Wine and Cheese ideas posted by our French Winophiles, thanks to Whole Foods Market!

Disclosure: The wines and cheeses were provided by Whole Foods Market.  Opinions expressed are mine.

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. Looks like you had a great time! I liked the Pinot Gris a lot too, paired with the Epoisses. Still have a few left to try so this gives me some ideas for pairings for those.

  2. Wendy Klik says:

    Friends, wine and food is the best pairing of all. Thanks for sharing your evening.

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