Recommendations from CMB judges from around the globe
By Quentin Havaux
Located in the heart of Europe, Switzerland is mostly renowned for its picturesque landscapes, but few probably know that from a culinary perspective, it is a hidden gem. In fact, the country boasts more Michelin-starred restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the world. The 2019 edition of the guide to Switzerland listed 3 three-star restaurants, 20 two-star restaurants and 105 one-star restaurants, bringing the total to 128. This makes it the world’s most dense network of Michelin-starred gourmet restaurants.
Swiss cuisine is broad-ranging and varied. Although influenced by German, French and Northern Italian cuisines, it is based on local ingredients and carries its own authentic character. Throughout Switzerland’s 26 regional cantons, there are exciting dishes to suit every taste: fondue, raclette, älplermagronen, rösti, bündner nusstorte, zürcher geschnetzeltes, Vaud saucisson and many more. And one of the main ingredients that Swiss cuisine owes its excellence to is cheese.
There are more than 550 varieties of Swiss cheese, and nearly half the milk produced in Switzerland is turned into cheese. You could easily explore Switzerland by travelling from cheese dairy to cheese dairy. Each region has its own specialties: the soft AOP Vacherin Mont d’Or, for instance, the aromatic Appenzeller®, the savoury AOP Emmentaler, the full-flavored AOP Sbrinz, or the famous AOP Gruyère.
All over the world, gourmet food lovers and experts enjoy AOP Gruyère for its unique flavour. And as wine and cheese have gone hand in hand for centuries, we asked some of our distinguished tasters which wines pair well with AOP Gruyère. Here are the top 10 suggestions:
One of my favourite pairings with AOP Gruyère cheese is a flinty Pinot Gris made from Willamette valley in Oregon state…to sip and enjoy anytime as a snack or in a meal. I love the earthy and nutty flavors of hard AOP Gruyère cheese……Pair along with this dry crispy white, a lively, Pinot Gris with pear, melon fruit and mineral flavors of typical Willamette soil character!
A 20-Year-Old Tawny Port because it matches the nuttiness and saltiness of an aged AOP Gruyère.
“I would propose a pairing with with a Montilla-Moriles fino from the Pedro Ximénez grape”.
For sweet AOP Gruyère, maturing for up to 5 months, I would choose, on the principle of contrast, mature wines from Melnik, such as those from the Shiroka melnishka loza and Melnik 55 grape varieties from the Strouma Valley. These wines have piquant and earthy flavours which would underscore the slightly fruity character of sweet AOP Gruyère, while their outstanding tannins would liaise well with the saturated milky taste of the cheese. For a 15-month AOP Gruyère, where the earthy, nutty, and slightly piquant notes dominate, I would choose the gentler combination of Mavroud from the Thracian valley, aged for 12-18 months in oak barrels, on the principle of combining similarities. The fruity maturity of the wine, the vanilla sweetness of the oak and its herb tones leave some room for mature AOP Gruyère to shine brilliantly with its nutty softness and piquancy.
I immediately think of a white wine, specifically from Vermentino grapes.
A wine characterized by a very well defined varietal aroma, fruity and floral at the same time, with a good structure and excellent freshness on the palate that, in my opinion, goes very well with AOP Gruyère cheese in the classic version. When thinking of a “spicy AOP Gruyère” I imagine a Vermentino aged in barrique.
A full-bodied Chenin Blanc from old bush vines (ca 25 years) in Stellenbosch (Coastal Region district in South Africa) – In the cellar the wine can enjoy lees stirring after fermentation and a little oxidative oak ageing: the result is a wine with a deep lemon color and green tinge, intense aromas of citrus fruit (lemon) and green fruit (grape juice, pears) and with flavors of ripe quince pears and tropical fruit with a delicious long finish. Enough fruit concentration to counter a AOP Gruyère!
AOP Gruyère pairs perfectly with a nice Cabernet Franc from Villány. The wine has elegance and harmony. It has a complex character. Its refreshing fruitiness plays well with its opulent barrel notes. Such fruity, balanced wine is the perfect companion to this fine cheese.
Pinot noir from Burgundy – the delicacy of the wine doesn’t overwhelm the subtle flavours of the AOP Gruyère cheese, but complements them.
A Fendant du Valais because it’s a crisp white wine with a good acidic backbone and delicate fruits.
With a younger AOP Gruyère I would recommend a creamy and fruity Chardonnay, dry, late harvest from the Moravia region, to combine with the creamy and nutty character of the cheese.
With a mature AOP Gruyère – a full-bodied Welschriesling, dry, late harvest from the Moravia region / Mikulovska sub-region, with smooth and nutty tones to combine with the dry-herbal tones of the cheese.
(BONUS)And why not pair AOP Gruyère with a sparkling wine?
For young to medium-mature cheese, I would suggest a Champagne from the Marne Valley, from the Meunier grape variety. These are wines with fruit notes (white fruit such as fresh pear), roundness and a lot of delicacy. For more refined cheeses, with more power and salinity, I would go for a Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs. The tension, the minerality and the elegance of the Chardonnay are a perfect echo to the power and the depth of a refined AOP Gruyère.