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.

Cider and Cheese, Please!

You’ve known since childhood that “an Apple a day keeps the doctor away…” but now that you’re all grown up, you may have also discovered that when pressed for juice and allowed to ferment and age, apples can become just what the doctor ordered!  We’re talking, of course, about cider, that underappreciated cousin of beer and wine that shows up in force at bars and bottle shops this time of year, announcing to all that Autumn is here. 

At its simplest, cider is nothing more than the juice of pressed apples, fermented by the yeasts native to apple skins.  It has a long history in the United States, going back to the first English colonies, and was more commonly consumed than beer in the years before the German and Irish immigrant populations and their beer brewing traditions became fully incorporated into the American melting pot.  Nearly wiped out entirely by Prohibition, cidermaking has seen a renaissance in the last 40 years in parallel with craft brewing, winemaking, and artisan cheesemaking.

While we might associate ciders most often with the autumn colors of New York and New England, they are produced throughout the year and around the world, from the warm and wet English West Country; to the rolling fields of Normandy and Brittany; to the rustic, rugged mountains of the Basque Country.  These regional ferments evolved in response to the same geographic, economic, and cultural constraints as the cheeses consumed in their vicinities, and as such make brilliant terroir pairings.

We’re delighted to share a flight of cheese and cider pairings from three esteemed cider and cheese producing regions, so that you can break free of the repressive stranglehold Pumpkin Spice has taken upon our society, and celebrate fall with the simple bliss of a classic harvest beverage.


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Cidre Bouché 2016 Unfiltered Hard Apple Cider

Domaine Dupont (Pays D’Auge, Normandy, France)

From a region of apple growers influenced by their winemaking countrymen to the South comes this crisp, elegant, pleasantly sweet unfiltered Apple Cider; a perfect complement to its Norman counterpart, Camembert.

  • Deep amber-bronze color and a clean nose with subtle citrus and berry notes
  • A creamy mouthfeel, with rich, velvety effervescence like cream soda
  • Its flavor profile is a rounded, focused sweetness reminiscent of red grapes. It makes its presence known right away, and then recedes, making room for powerful brine and cooked broccoli flavors of farmstead Camembert

PairingsMurray’s Camembert; Murray’s Brie Fermier; Jasper Hill Moses Sleeper


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Shacksbury Dry Hard Apple Cider

Shacksbury Cider (Vergennes, Vermont)

This light, tart, rustic cider is a cocktail of 10 distinct heirloom apple varieties grown in Vermont and England, fermented in part by yeasts native to the apples themselves.  Aged over six months, its sweetness is present but dialed back, laying the stage for firm, lactic, tangy cheddar to work its magic.

  • A pale yellow color, with yeast and funky barnyard aromas
  • A light, smooth, clean mouthfeel, punctuated by large bubbles
  • Dry, as its name suggests, with a prickly tartness, it is a wonderful complement to the tangy fruit and sweet cream notes in its Vermont counterpart, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar

PairingsCabot Clothbound Cheddar, Murray’s High Plains Cheddar, Murray’s Cavemaster Reserve Stockinghall Cheddar


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Byhur “24” Sidra Apardunia

Astarbe Sagardotegia (Astigarraga, Basque Country, Spain)

An intensely dry bubbly with a hint of bitterness, produced from two proprietary apple varieties on a 450 year old estate in the heart of Basque cider country.  Pairs wonderfully with Ossau-Iraty, or as a substitute for Champagne alongside a decadent a triple crème.

  • Dark, yellow-orange color and clean, tart, green apple aromas
  • Light and crisp on the tongue, highly effervescent, and as dry as they come
  • With a balanced flavor profile, long finish, and slight hint of bitterness, it showcases the complex sweet, savory, pecan, and lanolin of Ossau-Iraty and other rich Basque sheep’s milk cheeses.

Pairings:  Ossau-Iraty, Pyrenees Brebis, Roncal, Nettle Meadow Sappy Ewe, Brebirousse D’Argental, Cremeaux de Borgogne

Written by: Tyler Frankenberg, Murray’s Cheese

Cheese, Beer, and the Super Bowl: Murray’s Guide to Doing it Right

beer!

By John David Ryan, Field Merchandiser and Beer Connoisseur Extraordinaire 

It’s that time of year: Super Bowl season! We’re all talking about things like: what are Russell Wilson’s chances of leading his team to a repeat victory? What will we serve for game day snacks? Who will have the best commercials? Will the halftime show be as terrible as it always is? And what kind of Uggs will Tom Brady be wearing at the post-game press conference? These are important details—I must know!

 Cheddar & IPA

If you’re like the rest of the cool kids, then you probably drink IPAs and talk about how much you appreciate a fresh, hoppy beer with intense notes of citrus and pine. But seriously: it’s hard to beat a well-made India Pale Ale. Known for starting the American craft beer craze, these West Coast originals aren’t necessarily a beginner-friendly beer, but are probably the most widely enjoyed ale. And they’re made for pairing. Try one with a clothbound cheddar. The crumbly, acidic cheese holds its own against the bitter beer.

Beer suggestions: Ithaca Flower Power, Ballast Point Sculpin, Dogfish Head 60 Minute

Gouda & Stout

Gouda is that fun friend who we all want to show up to our party because they make it so much better. Plus, Gouda comes lots of different ways: creamy, smoked, aged, with caraway seeds, etc. I prefer an aged gouda. It’s full of crystals! Delicious, crunchy tyrosine crystals (that’s an amino acid), which typically form within cheeses that have been aged over a year. It’ll be drier, with hints of caramel, salt and butterscotch. For that reason, you need some sweetness to balance it out. Go with a big stout—something with a lot of roasty, chocolate flavors. (Don’t be afraid to add some honey to the equation if you like it really sweet.) Think of it as a boozy chocolate sea salt caramel truffle—your party guests will be amazed.

 Beer Suggestions: Alesmith Speedway, North Coast Old Rasputin, Evil Twin I Love You With My Stout

Brie & Belgian Pale Ale

It’s hard not to love a double or triple crème brie. The decadent, buttery paste just melts in your mouth. But you need something with bubbles to help cleanse your palate of all of that goodness. Traditionally, you’d pop open a bottle of champagne—but who brings Moet & Chandon to a football party? Grab a Belgian pale or golden ale—something with a cork and cage on top like champagne. It lets you know that it’s been bottle fermented and will give you lots of bubbles, which is exactly what you want with a creamy cheese like this.

Beer Suggestions: Brooklyn Local 1, Ommegang BPA, Brassiere d’Achouffe La Chouffe

Blue & Barleywine

Blue cheese can be intimidating. Heck: its got blue mold throughout the paste. But it becomes a magical food when you properly pair it. For starters, get a younger, creamier blue like Cambozola Black Label or Chiriboga or even Stilton. Then crack open a barleywine—a big ale with a ton of malty sweetness. You’ll taste toffee, dark fruits, molasses and caramel—but watch out! Because of the amount of grain used in making a barleywine, they’re typically higher in alcohol. So if Uncle Larry has a foul mouth and gets loud after a few brews, maybe steer him away from this one.

Beer Suggestions: Central Waters Kosmyk Charlie’s Y2K, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, Stone Old Guardian

Alpine & Brown

When I think of paradise, it often involves a herd of cows with bells on their necks, lush pastures, snow-capped mountains, and a smelly shepherd with one of those long, curved sticks…or a beach in the Caribbean. I mean, they’ve got fruity drinks with umbrellas there, but they don’t have Alpine cheeses. Most Alpines are still made by traditional methods and are regulated to insure they are of the highest quality. But when I want a fantastic nutty Alpine cheese, I dream of Comte. I reach for Gruyere. I covet a pound of Appenzeller…and something to wash it down with it. For that, you’ll need a brown ale. Just like Alpine cheeses, brown ales are slightly sweet, nutty, and thoroughly enjoyable by everyone. They are an easy pairing that everyone at your party will love. Then too, if you have leftovers, you can always whip up some fondue!

 Beer Suggestions: Anchor Brekle’s Brown, Bells Best Brown, Smuttynose Old Brown Dog

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