NYE Champagne and Cheese Primer

Many of our national holidays are defined by a specific food. Thanksgiving is the turkey holiday. Independence Day is the hot dog holiday. But New Year’s alone is the holiday that is defined by a drink. That drink, of course, is Champagne. Well, let’s say sparkling wine, since we cheese people can certainly sympathize with sensitivities toward the misappropriation of names with protected geographical status. You may be drinking Cava, or Prosecco, or Crémant—technically, none of those are Champagne.

The point of the New Year’s beverage isn’t about where it’s sourced from, though. It’s about what it tastes like. So long as your wine has a good effervescence to it, you’re doing it right. And since there’s so much variation in sparkling wines, there’s naturally going to be variation in which cheeses you want to be pairing with. So we’ve put together this primer as a way of discussing how to do sparkling wine and cheese pairings the right way.

Champagne Cheese Sparkling Wine New Year's Eve Party Celebration

Generally, we can break things down by level of sweetness. Take a look at the label for hints on the sugar content of your vintage. Drier wines will have the word Brut, medium-dry ones will say Seco or Sec, and the sweeter stuff will be denoted by the word Doux or Dolce. We could get into the micro-degrees on this spectrum as well, but we’ll leave that for another time. Let’s focus on those three distinctions.

Brut
If you have a Brut-style wine, you’ll want a cheese that is luscious, soft, and super indulgent. The acidity and effervescence of the wine will work to swashbuckle through the richness of the cheese. The classic pairings here are your triple-cremes: Brillat-Savarin is always a crowd pleaser, as are Delice de Bourgogne and Cremeux de Bourgogne. If you’re looking for something made stateside, New York’s Champlain Valley Triple Cream and Vermont’s Nettle Meadow Kunik are the ways to go.

Seco/Sec
A sparkling wine that is semi-dry wants a cheese that is semi-indulgent. It should still be creamy and rich, but not at such heights as a triple-creme. A Chevre D’Argental would do particularly well with a seco, as would the ever-reliable Camembert Fermier.

Doux/Dolce
Sparkling wines with higher sugar contents are usually fruity and juicy. Therefore, you’ll want a cheese that goes well with sweet, fruity, berry-type flavors. There are plenty of styles that do just that. Valencay is both gooey and fudgy, with a nice bloomy rind to boot, and Taleggio works quite well if you’re looking to bring the funk. If you’re feeling indulgent—and after all, that’s the whole spirit of New Year’s Eve—Cypress Grove’s Truffle Tremor is decadent, tasty, and tasteful.

Bottle Aged/Biodynamic
Now, we did say three categories, but here’s a little bonus info for you. If your sparkling wine happens to be bottle aged, you can try opening up your selection to a broader range of flavors and textures. Bottle aged wines get fermented twice: once in the vat and then once in the bottle. That means they continue to evolve while under the cork. Often this makes for a drink that is funky and unfiltered, much like biodynamic wine. In these cases, the above rules still apply. But you can also do a big blue cheese like the holiday favorite Stilton, or go nuts with something alpine, like Annelies or L’Etivaz.

These are your rules of thumb. Again, no need to over-complicate things for your New Year’s bash—these few guidelines are all you need. Keep it fun, keep it simple, and when in doubt: the creamier the better.

Netflix and Cheese?

Sometimes, artisan cheeses can come off as ‘snobby’, but we couldn’t agree less! Here at Murray’s, we want everyone to enjoy cheese in whatever whey they want – whether it’s at a fancy dinner party or just snacking on the couch watching Netflix. Cheese is what you make it, to be enjoyed however you like. With this idea in mind, we took some of our favorite artisan cheeses and paired them with snack food – the kinds of things you can find at your corner store or local bodega. No need to get fancy! It just has to taste good! 

Sour Cream & Onion Lays Potato Chips + Montgomery’s Cheddar

There’s something about a bright green bag that makes us want to take it home and break into it. Normally we’d open up some dip and really go to town, but instead, we suggest breaking out a chunk of Montgomery’s Cheddar. This English cheddar isn’t like the ones you’d find outside of the US. Monty is savory and meaty, with notes of chive and baked potato. Both the chips and the cheese are highly snackable – they have that addictive quality that makes you want to nibble mindlessly while marathoning old episodes of Parks & Recreation. So, snack on!

Flamin’ Hot Cheetos + Epoisses

A funky wheel of Epoisses might not be the first thing you think of for a midnight bite, but this bacony, custardy cheese is practically its own dip. If you’re thinking about what to dunk, we suggest a fiery red bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. The cheesy heat might leave a red residue all over your fingers, but once it’s covered in gooey, tasty cheese, you won’t even care about the stains. The heat of the crispy cheese puffs cuts through the funk, leaving Epoisses’ spicy, meaty, and surprisingly creamy flavors to dazzle in its wake.

Original Cherry Pop Rocks + Valencay

We owe this pair to one of our expert mongers over at Murray’s Cheese Bar! Valencay is a French classic that comes from the Loire Valley – the goat cheese capital of the world. It has a storied history, and was said to even have had a run in with Napoleon, who chopped off the pyramid-shaped cheese’s top out of frustration after a battle gone awry. But don’t let that intimidate you – it makes a seriously great snack with a candy you probably haven’t had since you were a kid: Pop Rocks! You know how we recommend champagne and bubblies with soft cheeses goat’s milk cheeses? This is the candy equivalent. It sounds crazy, but there’s something about these fruity cherry popping candies that pairs perfectly with tangy, minerally Valencay.

Chips Ahoy! Chocolate Chip Cookies + Persille de Rambouillet

One of our cheesemongers likes to compare Persille to vanilla birthday cake, and she’s not wrong. There’s something sweet and creamy about this goat’s milk blue that makes it unlike any other we’ve tasted. To pair this cheese with chocolate would be obvious, but we want to take it a step further. Spreading a little bit of blue cheese on top of a chocolate chip cookie might seem a little bit odd. But trust us, it’s worth it. It’s the dessert you’d never think of, but you’ll realize just how perfect it is when enjoyed with a glass of wine while lounging around.

Featuring Our French Faves for Cheese Week!

We wouldn’t be much of a cheese shop if we didn’t have an undying love for French cheeses. This week is Cheese Week, so of course we turned to our favorite cheeses to highlight during the festivities. The French have given us so much when it comes to cheese – and it’s not just the humble Brie. France has given us cheeses that run the gamut – creamy Camemberts, herbal chevres, nutty sheep’s milks, and minerally blues. We”d love to tell you about our favorite Frenchies, just in time to inspire your own Cheese Week celebrations!

Murray’s Camembert

We know your first thought when we talk about French cheese is Brie – but instead, why not try a little wheel of Camembert? Historically inspired by the Brie recipe (it was said to be passed down by a priest who had come from the province of Brie, but the recipe was corrupted in the telling), Camembert is creamier, more mushroomy, and has an earthiness that really tastes as though you’re enjoying it in the fields of France.

Murray’s Delice

If you’re looking for creamy, buttery sweet cheese, look no further than the land of Burgundy. Not only do they have delectable wine, but their cheese cannot be beat – Delice de Bourgogne is full of fresh milk flavors, with hints of sweet cream and clean hay. You can start your day with Delice paired with apricots and drizzled with honey as a tasty breakfast – or dessert if you add a glass of champagne on the side.

Valencay

The Loire Valley has created oh so many chevre cheeses, but Valencay stands out. Stories say that it was originally shaped like a pyramid, but when Napoleon returned from his military failings in Egypt, he demanded the pointed tops be removed, even going so far as to slice them off himself with his sword. While we’re not sure how true that is, the stunted pyramid shape remains, and the minerally, piquant goat’s milk is still one of our faves.

Ossau Iraty

If you’re looking for ancient traditions, you’ve found it. It’s said that Ossau Iraty is one of the first cheeses ever produced, and it’s only gotten better with age. Warm, buttery sheep’s milk curds are heated and pressed – think rich, toasty wheat aromas, and nutty, grassy-sweet flavors that make it that sort of cheese that stands up against anything – bold reds, toasty brown ales, whatever you’d like to pair it with.

Fourme d’Ambert

A blue developed so early on that the Druids and Gauls were said to have worked together to create it (read: a veryyyyy long time ago). It’s even said to go back to the Roman occupation of France nearly 1,000 years ago! They obviously perfected the recipe over the years, because we love nothing more than the earthy, mushroomy cheese with hints of sweetness and an amazing velvety texture. Even the staunchest blue hater will fall in love with this Frenchie.

To celebrate Cheese Week, we’ve got some great discounts on some of our French Faves! Check it out!