Part 2: While it can feel little nothing less than a pain in the cork for those trying to remember and match varietals with appellations, it can help us when we are trying to pair French wines and cheeses. Finally a bone is thrown our way, and we discover, as millions have known for centuries in France, that French cheese and wine gems from the same region pair perfectly. No need to consult the Wine Bible to see what cheese goes with a Sancerre. Pick a goat cheese from Loire Valley, where Sancerre is located.
Go to your trusted cheesemonger and say,
“Hello cheesemonger, I’ve just purchased a Sancerre [say just the appellation name, it’ll make you sound impressive], and would like a cheese from the same region, or from Loire Valley.”
Anything from the Loire Valley or Sancerre should fit. Why? Because people have been making cheese for a very long time in France, as they have wine, and while eating locally has been marketed as somewhat of a revolution for those of us in the U.S., its old news in France. Quite simply, people in the Loire Valley make cheese that taste good with their local wine. And that wine is Sauvignon Blanc. And that cheese is goat cheese, the perfectist of all cheeses with that grape.
Then again, why is a tough question.
The wine part is simple. That wine grows best in that area. So it is grown.
But why is goat cheese the main cheese in the Loire Valley, exactly? Where the goats in the region before the wine, or was Sauvignon Blanc in the Loire Valley before the kids? Do goats grow best in that area too? Perhaps they like mineral soils because it reminds them of the mineral-laced tin cans they used to munch on at gramma’s house. Did the people of the area try goats and cows before they settled on goats, as winemakers likely did with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc grapes in the Loire Valley before they decided on SB? I have no idea.
But the fact remains- and yes, it is undisputed, everywhere- Sauvignon Blanc is the best white grape grown in Sancerre, in the Loire Valley. And it is absolutely the best match with some of Sancerre’s goat cheese, such as the Crottin de Chavignol featured in the lovely picture above, which I wish I took. And, everything can get more specific. If you have a chance to try a Sancerre from Chavignol with a Crottin de Chavignol, oh lord, this is the best match ever. You gotta sit down. Yet in general, if you match a wine from the Loire Valley (the red, Cabernet Franc works smashingly too), with a cheese from the general Loire Valley area, you are set. Super set!
And remember, your wine and cheese mongers are paid to help you. You pay them. If the appellation isn’t marked clearly to you on the wine, ask your wine salesperson. They should know.