Wine and cheese have been paired for centuries, and most people know at least a little bit about how to go about matching them. What most people do not know how to do is to pair cheeses with spirits, liquors, and beers; a trend which is growing among cheese fans who are looking for alternatives to the old reliable wine pairings. As we learned while living abroad, ports, brandies, whiskeys, and even schnapps can pair favorably with good cheeses, and I was recently asked to try pairing some delicate French cheeses with fine small-batch tequilas!
The French Cheese Board of New York City is a studio devoted to celebrating the art of French cheese making, and is a platform for the exchange of ideas with the goal of educating consumers about fine French cheeses.
Casa Noble, whose roots can be traced back to the mid-1700s when a hacienda surrounded by vast stretches of arid land perfect for the cultivation of agave began producing “Vino Tequila” which was aged in oak barrels and carried by mules to the cantinas of Mexico City and Guadalajara.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to start from scratch; the French Cheese board had suggested some pairings based on their expert palates, matching Casa Noble Crystal with a sharp, tangy Mimolette; a golden Reposado with a rich brandy-washed Époisses; and a smooth, rich Anejo with Fourme d’Ambert. In addition to the cheese pairings I tried a French Margarita. Here are my tasting notes.
Casa Noble Crystal Tequila with Mimolette
This crystal clear tequila had notes of citrus, mahogany, and buttery almond. The Mimolette cheese, introduced by Louis XIV in the 17th century comes from Pas-de-Calais, a cow’s milk cheese that is aged for 18 months. To this day, the cheese is still turned by hand once a week to ensure full nutty-earthy flavors with hints of butterscotch. When paired together with the Casa Noble Crystal, the tequila’s touch of sweetness reinforced the Mimolette’s rich nutty flavor and rounded out its tangy-salty character.
Casa Noble Reposado
The pale golden hued Reposado smells of aged tobacco and vanilla with a sliver of citrus. The taste is rich with creamy, buttery notes and is very mellow on the tongue. The Époisses cheese which Napolean called the “king of all cheeses” comes from Bourgogne (Burgundy), and is washed with Marc de Bourgogne, a pomace brandy distilled from the pressed grapes that remain after wine-making. When the Époisses cheese is washed with it, it adds a distinct flavor, imparting a sharp sweetness to the rind, and then it is aged 4 weeks. With it’s strong aroma and deep orange exterior, the interior is smooth and silky, with a unique salty taste and the distinct flavor of forest mushrooms. When paired with the Reposado, the Époisses delivers an enhanced creamy flavor that enhances the complex flavors of the tequila.
Casa Noble Añejo
Aged in French oak barrels, this pale amber Añejo has notes of honey, tobacco, vanilla, and a hint of clove. The taste is extremely mellow with no bite or harshness, thanks to the barrel ageing. Brown sugar notes are followed by a touch of cinnamon; not sweet but spicy and smooth. Fourme d’Ambert is one of France’s oldest cheeses, dating back to Roman times. This beautiful, blue-veined cheese comes from Avergne, France where it is made from raw cow’s milk. Aged in caves for two months, its rich, tangy, creamy flavor and mellow, salty, buttery blue veins deliver a deeply savory experience. When paired with this fine Añejo, the earthiness of the cheese and the spicy complex flavors of the tequila swim across the tongue, each complimenting the other.
The French margarita, allegedly and American invention, mingles the finest tequila with exquisite French liqueurs and fresh citrus juices, creating a lively cocktail that thoroughly refreshes the palate after a tasting of rich cheeses and complex tequilas.
2 oz. Casa Noble Blanco tequila
1 oz. Grand Marnier
1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 oz. freshly squeezed orange juice
1 oz. Chambord
Pour the tequila, Grand Marnier, lime juice and orange juice into a shaker filled with ice and give it a good shake. Pour into a chilled glass and with the back of a spoon, gently float the Chambord on top. Enjoy!