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Wine & Spirits 2017: New ideas for pairing cheese and wine (and beer)

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Wine and cheesepairing is nothing new, but with the improved offerings of cheeses, wines and local beers, there's much to reconsider. Cheese buyer Rachel Perlstein and St. James Cheese Company (641 Tchoupitoulas St., 504-304-1485; 5004 Prytania St., 504-899-4737; www.stjamescheese.com) proprietor Richard Sutton recommend beverages to pair with cheeses.

  Perlstein is a wine buyer for Whole Foods Market at Arabella Station (5600 Magazine St., 504-899-9119; www.wholefoodsmarket.com). She attended culinary school, worked as a chef and was designated a Certified Cheese Professional by the American Cheese Society.

  Perlstein says getting started with wine and cheese pairings is simple. "Champagne and sparkling wine go with everything," she says. She also shared general guidelines about wine varietals and specific vintages.

  "Dry white wines pair extremely well with just about any cheese," Perlstein says. "White wines with good minerality like Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina or your favorite pinot noir would both be good partners with Thomasville Tomme," a semi-soft, aged raw cow's milk cheese made like a French farmhouse cheese.

  Matching wines and cheeses from the same region is usually a good idea. Perlstein recommends Spanish txakolina wines — white or rose — with sheep's milk cheeses from the Pyrenees and Basque Country.

  "Sheep's milk is the fattiest, more than cow and goat cheese, so the cheeses go great with these crisp, lean and refreshing wines," she says.

  Roses and Loire Valley Sancerre wines, unoaked chardonnays from Burgundy and California, make great pairings with Cypress Grove Lamb Chopper Chevre or Ewephoria, a Gouda-style sheep's milk cheese from Holland, Perlstein says.

  Cana de Cabra, a mild, creamy Spanish goat cheese, goes with those wines as well as pinot grigio, Spanish verdejo and garnacha. Alemar Cheese Company's Bent River Camenbert-style cheese is a good accompaniment to chablis and pinot noir.

  Cypress Grove also produces a Midnight Moon goat Gouda that Perlstein pairs with Dry Creek Zinfandel or syrah wines.

  "Alpine-style cheeses, like Comte, Gruyere and fontina go with natural wines like Donkey & Goat Grenache Noir and Arianna Occhipinti SP68 from Vittoria, Sicily," she says.

  Beaujolais is another good option. "Cabot Clothbound aged cheddar is big enough to pair with your favorite cabernet sauvignon, or with other bold red wines," Perlstein says.

  "Caveman Blue (cheese) from Oregon's Rogue Creamery is a great companion with cabernets, zinfandels and port," she says.

  At St. James Cheese Company, owners Richard Sutton and his wife, Danielle, have assembled a variety of cheeses from around the world.

  Both are Tulane University graduates who had cheese epiphanies while working in London at Paxton & Whitfield, one of the city's oldest cheesemongers. With the experience and knowledge they gained there, they opened their shop in New Orleans in 2006.

  As a host of breweries have opened in New Orleans in recent years, Sutton has hosted classes at the shop focused on pairing cheese with beer.

  "Beer is a magic beverage," he says. "Beer is much more forgiving than wine. I think beer and cheese are more approachable as a pairing, and (more) affordable."

  He shared some of his favorite pairings with

Gambit.

  "Rebirth Pale Ale, a product of NOLA Brewing Company, pairs well with pepato, a gourmet, aged Italian sheep's milk cheese studded with black peppercorns," Sutton says.

  Sutton pairs Covington Brewhouse's Pontchartrain Pilsner with a semi-hard cow's milk cheese from Meadow Creek Dairy in Virginia.

  "O'Banon from Capriole, a fresh and dense chevre made from organic goat's milk cheese wrapped in bourbon-soaked chestnut leaves is just the ticket to pair with (NOLA Brewing's) 7th Street Wheat beer," Sutton says.

  NOLA's Irish Channel Stout partners well with Brillat-Savarin, the triple-cream French cow's milk cheese named after he 19th-century gastronome, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, Sutton says.

  "Resembling Parmigiano Reggiano in both taste and texture, Piave Stravecchio, a hard 18-month-aged cow's milk cheese from Italy, is a worthy companion to Abita Brewing Company's Abita Amber," Sutton says.

  He recommends serving Abita's raspberry-infused Purple Haze with Red Hawk, a triple-creme, aged cow's milk cheese from Cowgirl Creamery in Northern California.

  With Abita's Big Easy IPA, he likes Prima Donna aged cow's milk Gouda from the Netherlands, and for Andygator he chooses Cabot Clothbound cheddar, a cow's milk cheese from Cellars at Jasper Hill in Vermont, which also pairs well with big, bold-flavored wines.

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