Wine and Cheese


    Bringing out the Best in One Another


    ost a winning wine and cheese party with tips from Lisa Pramann, specialty team leader and cheese buyer for Whole Foods Market in Minneapolis.

    Q. How long have you been with Whole Foods?
    A. I have worked for Whole Foods for five years buying and working with cheese, chocolate, coffee
    and olives.

    Q. What needs to happen in order to have a successful wine and cheese pairing?
    A. In choosing a cheese to pair with a wine, I strive to meld a cheese that brings out the best texture, flavor, body, and notes in the pair. It is often the case that wines and cheese from similar areas will naturally complement each other with the reflecting nuances of the sun, soil, water, and minerals in the land the grapes grow on and animals graze upon. It is not necessary, however, to match regions to have a beautiful pairing. Trying the recommendation of your local cheese monger (a term used for cheese specialists) and wine specialist will often lead you to a new taste you may not have sought on your own.

    Q. What should you look for in a wine?
    A. Look for flavors that complement each other in a wine; berries with wood, chocolate with nuts, grass with plums or apple.

    • Avoid overloading on one end of the palette spectrum: too much fruit, an over-kill of earthiness, or a flat pairing that doesn’t bloom in your mouth.
    • To coax the most flavor out of your wine, it should be served at the proper temperature, which varies depending on the type of wine you have. Be sure to ask for the optimal serving temperature when you buy.
    • It is always helpful to keep a log of your finds: what was the main flavor? What lingering taste did it leave in your mouth? What was the texture? What’s it called and where does it come from?

    Q.What should you look for when choosing a cheese?

    Pairing a favorite wine with a couple of cheeses is one of the easiest ways to entertain guests over for dinner, and to ensure some extra elbow room in the kitchen! I like to choose a “real pleaser” along with something a bit more adventurous; Spanish sheep’s milk Manchego (real pleaser) with some French Edel de Cleron (adventurous) or Dutch Parrano (real pleaser) with French Valencay goat’s cheese (adventurous). Look to pair two-three cheeses on your tray. This provides just enough variety without overwhelming your taste buds and making the tray look cluttered.

    Don’t be shy of some of the more homely looking artisan cheeses. In many cases the herbs, blooming rind, and yes, in some cases, even spots of mold, enhance the flavor. However, pass over cheese that seems discolored or has a bitter ammonia smell.

    Also remember that cheese develops different flavors throughout the wheel. Enjoy the creamy, mild center, but don’t pass up the firmer, often more flavorful, outer layer. The blooming white rind on soft cheeses, such as brie, is not only edible but helps carry the flavors of the wine.

    Q. Can you offer some tips on how to throw a wine and cheese party?
    A. Tips for Buying and Serving:

    • Make sure you let your cheese monger know when you plan to serve the cheese. Shop close to that date to ensure you get it at its peak.
    • Make the cheese easy to access by cutting off inedible rinds and making large crumbles of hard cheeses, such as aged Gouda or blues.
    • To coax the most flavors out of your cheese, it should be served at the proper temperature: hard cheeses should come to room temperature for a least an hour and soft cheese 20-30 minutes before you plan to serve.
    • Putting the cheese on parchment mats or leaves makes it simple to refill or remove cheese from a tray.
    • Cheese tags or place cards with at least the name and milk type should be placed next to your picks so that people can choose what appeals to them and maybe find a new favorite of their own.
    • Serve fresh fruit, nuts, crackers, or bread with your wine and cheese pairing—it will bring out the flavor of both and help if something is not to a guest’s liking.

    Setting the Mood

    When bringing a bottle to share, remember the mood is as important as the flavors. The Chianti you loved in that trattoria in Italy will probably never taste the same sitting around your kitchen table. Find a new love with each setting and mood and feel free to experiment with different wines during different meals.

    • A peppery Spanish red with undertones of plum served with Ossau-Iraty sets off the flare of BBQ food.
    • The great Prosecco from Italy matches wonderfully with the mixed milk Robiola as a precursor to a feast from the sea.
    • A velvety port with hints of maple always sides perfectly with an English Stilton.
    • A romantic evening encounter may be lost if not for an ice wine with underpinnings of apple and ripe figs.

    Q.What sets Whole Foods apart from other grocery retailers?

    Whole Foods Market is always looking for local vendors and producers that meet our stringent quality standards. This is especially true in the Specialty department. We have several wonderful Minnesota producers and the majority of our cheddars come from Wisconsin. Our commitment to the Twin Cities communities is not only evidenced through our work with local vendors, but also through our active involvement with local non-profit organizations, arts, education, and social service programs.

    When you shop at Whole Foods Market, you can truly feel good about where you shop. Off-setting 100 percent of our energy use with wind energy credits – and offering customers the opportunity to do the same, being on Fortune Magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list 10 years in a row, and running our entire Midwest region’s trucking fleet on biodiesel fuel are just a few reasons you can feel good about choosing Whole Foods Market.

    Whether you are looking for hand-rolled dolmas for your Mediterranean-inspired dinner or pantry staples, such as what we offer in our 365 Everyday Value™ and 365 Organic Everyday Value™ product lines, Whole Foods Market is here to serve you with the best value in natural and organic foods in the country.