Spanish Artisan Cheeses & Complementing Spanish Wines

Text & Photographs by Gerry Dawes ©2008
Tiles in MadridTiles in Madrid
It’s a curious fact that few great artisanal cheeses are made in the fine wine regions of Spain and, conversely, few great cheese areas also produce great wines. With that in mind, I have experimented over the years with other wine factors--such as age, acidity, alcohol levels, dryness, sweetness—to recommend wines to go with various Spanish cheeses. The prevailing idea in the past was that the best red wines should be paired with great cheeses; that turns out to be the last thing one should do with great red wines, since the complexity for which they are usually appreciated loses out to the often forceful and equally complex flavors of many great cheeses. Many white wines, in fact, are better choices: the acidity, fruit and freshness, all palate-refreshing qualities, of white wines let them pair perfectly with more assertively flavored Spanish cheeses. Goats’ and sheeps’ milk cheeses, especially, benefit from the lively qualities of white wines. But rosados, of which Spain has some particularly good examples (especially from Navarra, La Rioja and Cigales) and young, fresh, red wines without predominant oak will also refresh the palate between bites of cheese.

The cheeses described are available in the United States and can be purchased in stores or ordered through Internet sites (see right column). The wines they are paired with have proved successful in a number of tastings, but the wine suggestions are meant simply as that—suggestions. Tasters should feel free to explore the magnificent world of Spanish wine, from big, rich reds to steely whites, not forgetting the great sherries and other aromatic wines from the south.

Read about sheeps' milk cheeses »

Where to Buy Spanish Cheeses in the USA

Artisanal Cheese Center, New York City http://www.artisanalcheese.com

Despaña Brands, Jackson Heights, NY http://www.despanabrandfoods.com

Di Bruno Bros., Philadelphia http://www.dibruno.com

Fairway Market, New York http://www.fairwaymarket.com

Forever Cheese, Whitestone, New York http://www.forevercheese.com

Murray’s Cheese, New York City http://www.murrayscheese.com)/

The Spanish Table, Seattle, Santa Fe, Berkeley, Marin County http://www.spanishtable.com

La Tienda, Williamsburg, VA http://www.tienda.com

Whole Foods, http://www.wholefoods.com

Zingerman’s, Ann Arbor, Michigan http://www.zingermans.com

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