Aging Gracefully

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Both cheese and wine have a complex relationship with time. Time changes the product and can make it more intense and more flavorsome. Combining cheese and wine might seem simple, but often it’s not, and when factoring in the right balance between the state of maturation of the two, it becomes all the more difficult but equally rewarding.

The workshop run by journalist and writer Ursula Heinzelmann focused on this issue through examples of German Alpine cheeses and Riesling from the Rhine region, both tasted at different intervals during the aging process.

“The idea for this workshop came out of the theory that age not only makes us people more serene, relaxed, understanding and wiser, but it has the same effect on cheese and wine,” said Heinzelmann. “The older they are, the more easily they pair and the more willing they are to embrace a larger spectrum of partners.”

The first pairing featured a three-month-old Urberger, a hard Alpine cheese made by Evelyn Wild. “This cheese is too young to eat; we’re tasting it only for educational purposes. It’s what in wine we would call ‘baby murder’.” On the palate it had an elastic texture with lots of moisture and deeply milky aromas. “In philosophy we talk about children developing an idea of their own identity. This cheese is the same; it’s still working out who it is.”

The wine was a 2013 dry Riesling by producer Robert Weil in Rheingau. Heinzelmann told the audience to look past whether the first cheese and wine tasted good (they did), but to think if there is an interaction between them. “Is there a story developing from this meeting? Do they talk to each other?”

The subsequent pairings—a six- and 12-month-old Uberger and a three-, 12- and 24-month-old Alpe Loch cheese tasted with a recent vintage and 10-year-old Rieslings from three different producers—showed increasing depth of flavor, length and interaction between the components.

“All the components of a well-balanced wine become less aggressive with time,” said Heinzelmann. “The acidity, sweetness and flavors come together and form a more uniform wholeness.”

With the endless possibilities and numerous factors at play, Heinzelmann warned not to be overwhelmed when trying to pair cheese and wine. “It’s not complicated to enjoy cheese and wine; it should be something enjoyable. There isn’t just one correct pairing… We under-rate the importance of age in cheeses and wines but if you make an effort, there is a lot to be found.”

Cheese Tasted

Urberger
Evelyn Wild, Käsküche Isny/Allgäu
3 months 6 months, 12 months

Alpe Loch
Emma & Richard Fuchs, Bregenzerwald
3 months, 12 months, 24 months

Dry Rieslings Tasted

Robert Weil, Kiedrich/Rheingau
2013 Kiedrich Gräfenberg
2005 Kiedrich Gräfenberg

Alexander Gysler, Weinheim/Rheinhessen
2014 Vum Helle (Weinheimer Holle)
2004 Weinheimer Mandelberg

Martin Tesch, Langenlonsheim,/Nahe
2014 Krone
2008 Krone