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The cheese course

I simplify wine and food pairing and usually don't push the limits too much. I'd rather have an unmistakable synergy between the food and wine than manage to pull off a pairing that doesn't offer the best compliment. (I know this horrifies some red wine only drinkers, but many foods are not improved by tannins.) Like many of us, I choose to eat fish and white meat more and more. While the halibut is on the grill, I find myself coming up empty handed in my wine cellar. Other than several bottles of Gran Cru Champagne, I rarely have white wine on hand. White wine is consumed within a few days of being purchased at my house. Because of this imbalance in inventory, I often find myself eating my stuffed turkey breast without a glass of wine, rather than ruin its subtle flavor with a muscular syrah or cabernet sauvignon.

On those evenings when I really want a glass of wine, but don't have a bottle in my cellar that will highlight the flavor of my jerk chicken, I include a cheese course at the end of the meal. Red wine is built for cheese. The fat in cheese and the tannins in red wine compliment each other; each one becomes smooth, rich, and focused. It doesn't take much cheese to create this ritual; a slice or two of an artisan cheese is perfect to slowly savor with your petit sirah.

Be open to unusual cheeses. With all the culinary advancements here in the United States, even the local super market offers some interesting selections. Don't miss perusing the cheese aisle at the membership mega-stores too; they've got some great prices on chevre, gorgonzola, Jarlsberg, and more. Of course white wine is wonderful with cheese too. Never mind dessert, save room for a crumbly chunk of Stilton Blue.

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