Here are a few of my top pairings which are sure to add sparkle and a touch of elegance to your next gathering:
- Cheese and wine are a culinary match made in Heaven. For my money, few things top Parmigiano-Reggiano (Italian) or Comté (French) cheese with full-bodied reds. Both of these cows-milk cheeses are unique regional products with a rich history.
- Markets are filled with cheeses labeled "Parmesan," but there's only one true Parmigiano-Reggiano (in fact, those exact words are stamped on the rind of each and every wheel that's made). Produced using a centuries-old technique in northern Italy, and aged at least 18 months (and up to 3 years), this is cheese is tailor made for big, Italian reds such as Chianti (particularly Riserva), Barolo, and Brunello di Montalcino.
- Although not as well known as Parmigiano-Reggiano, but certainly a singular, first-class cheese that's worth the splurge, Comté is made in the Jura Mountains of France (and similar in style to Gruyère). Much softer than Parmigiano-Reggiano, Comté is just as comfortable on a cheese tray as it is melted over thin baguette slices or nestled between mini sandwiches. When shopping for Comté, look for the bell symbols stamped-rind in brown or green. Pair with rich reds from the Côte-du-Rhône region of France (especially Châteauneuf-du-Pape). Beaujolais is a terrific choice too.
- Folks often find pairing salty food with sparkling wine a challenge. My solution: try Prosciutto di Parma. The ham's silky texture and savory flavors are the ideal contrast to bubbles and the hint of sweetness in, say, a extra dry Champagne or Prosecco (an Italian sparkling wine). Try Prosciutto di Parma wrapped around sliced mango or ripe, seasonal pears.