Bold And Buttery Chardonnays Deserve A Second Chance
The wine may be too much alone. But add some bold flavors, like cheese and caramel, and suddenly you've got a perfect pairing.
With pairings, I like to keep things seasonal and classic. One of my favorites is a ripe Camembert, apples slathered in caramel and a nicely-oaked chardonnay. I know oaked chardonnay doesn’t always make people jump up and cheer, but I need you to trust me on this. The wine might seem a bit too much by itself, but once you add in the big flavors of the cheese and caramel, those broad shoulders come in handy. I love to smush some cheese, apple slices and caramel between slices of fresh baguette and make a sandwich of it. The tones and textures are a perfect match.
For this pairing, simply slice up some fresh apples and drizzle on some caramel (I’m partial to Fat Toad Farm’s goat milk caramel—exquisite). Serve them alongside the Camembert and some fresh, crusty bread.
Camembert is readily available at most cheese shops, and also the cheese departments of specialty grocers like Whole Foods, Wegmans and Hannaford. If you’re up for an oaked chardonnay, use a sweeter apple variety like Pink Lady or Fuji. The fruit’s sugars will plump up the pairing. If you’re more of an unoaked chardonnay fan, try a variety with a little more zing like Honeycrisp or Granny Smith. The sharper tang of the apple matches the wine’s leaner body. The caramel’s rich body and velvety sweetness will tie everything up together in a sweet, tasty bow.
Camembert is a soft-ripening cow milk cheese made in Normandy, France. Legend has it that an 18th century farmhand name Marie Harel learned the recipe from a Parisian priest who shared secrets of the famous cheese from his home village of Brie. Ms. Harel tweaked the recipe for her environment, and named it after her village, Camembert. Originally enjoyed mostly by locals, it was the invention of the wooden “hat box” in 1890 that changed everything. Using the box meant the cheese could travel longer distances—including to America. Once we got our hands on it, sales exploded. Camembert’s international fame was sealed during World War I, when the French famously issued the cheese to their troops.
In France, authentic Camembert de Normandie must be made with raw milk. In the States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires all raw-milk cheeses to be aged for at least 60 days before selling. For a small cheese like Camembert, that’s a problem because the whole point of the cheese is to enjoy the supple, milky interior. Too much aging will dry out the cheese, making it a sad little hockey puck. Making a pasteurized milk version allows younger cheeses to be shipped. It’s as good a compromise as we’ll see on this side of the pond. Along with Camembert, Normandy is also renowned for their apples. It’s no surprise they offer every conceivable product apples can be turned into—ciders, butters, Calvados (apple brandy) and myriad other delectable forms. When it comes to cheese and fruit, this is a prime example of the philosophy of ‘what grows together, goes together.’