Canadian Wine and Cheese Pairings Meet Their Match

CJAD, Montreal’s most popular talk radio station, featured The Great Canadian Wine & Cheese Match yesterday.

You can listen to the clip above by clicking on the arrow.

Winners and runners up will also be announced on Global Television and CTV News in June.

You still have time to nominate and/or vote for your favourite Canadian wines to pair with Canadian cheeses.

If you do, you could also win one of three Balderson Cheddar Cheese and Gourmet Gift Baskets, each worth $500.


Canadian Wine and Cheese Pairings Meet Their Match

Sheila: I know you like wine. Well I like wine and cheese. Wine and cheese pairings are certainly something that we want to be able to do well but we don’t necessarily have all the tools or the knowledge to be able to do that. Thankfully we have joining us someone who does. That is Natalie MacLean who is the editor of Canada’s largest wine review, Natalie ,Welcome.

Natalie: Thanks Sheila, great to be here.

Sheila: I am so glad that you could join us. First tell us about the idea of the contest that we could all participate and make our own choices of good wine and cheese pairings in Canada. Is that right?

Natalie: Absolutely, yes that’s right. It’s a fun online social media event where wine lovers from coast to coast can nominate their favourite Canadian wines and ciders to pair with Canadian cheeses. It is on and there you’ll see 6 categories. We have popular cheeses like a Canadian cheddar, mozzarella, feta, goat cheese, creamy cheeses and blue cheeses. You don’t have to be a wine expert. You pick your favourite cheese category. There’s a little blank and you can start typing in your favourite Canadian wine. You can nominate and go from there. Then, start getting votes for your favourite pairing. If you don’t want to nominate a wine, you can just vote for wines that are already nominated.

Sheila: Well there’s a lot of interesting things about what you’re proposing. For one, you’re promoting and encouraging us to see what great wines we have in Canada. Often times we talk about great wines that exist in other countries but this is an opportunity for us to look at what we have here and to discover a new wine. So that’s a great opportunity.

Natalie: Absolutely. What we have, here in Canada, coast to coast, in every province, are terrific wines. There have been lots of nominations in Quebec … not just the ciders but the a lot of the dry whites and ice wines from the Eastern Townships. I think it just makes sense for home-grown wines and cheeses to go together. They come from the same sort of climate and soil conditions.  You’ll see the nuances that pair well between the cheese on the plate and the wine in your glass.

Sheila: Interesting because I think a lot of people might like wine and might like cheese when you think of a competition, you imagine there are judges. You might think that it could be a little snooty and not really accessible for the regular person. You’re saying all of us regular people can discover cheeses and wines that go together. What are some tips that would help us through this?

Natalie: Exactly, so you’re right. This is the people’s choice competition. It’s just for fun and it’s about nominating what you like to drink or conversely what you like to eat when it comes to cheese and sharing that with others. We share so much on social media and we don’t feel like we have to be a movie critic to say, “I love that film I saw last night.”

Sheila: Absolutely.

Natalie: Right and this is the same thing. “I just had Domaine Pinnacle Ice cider from Quebec or Henry of Pelham Baco Noir from Ontario and I love it”. I put that particular wine or cider with a Balderson cheddar or Cow’s Cheese from PEI or maybe a creamy cheese from B.C.  I really think that it makes a lot of sense. Start with what you like to drink and with what you like to eat. Then take a look at what other people are nominating.That’s the power of this. It’s like, “Oh I never thought to pair a Nova Scotia Sparkling wine with a B.C goat cheese. They actually work together. That’s part of the fun of this too.

Sheila: Absolutely, we’re speaking to Natalie MacLean who’s the editor of Canada’s largest wine review and specifically about an opportunity for you to participate in a wine pairing with cheese contest. So how long does this voting period lasts?

Natalie: Well, it only lasts until May 31st  … we’re keeping it fairly tight …

Sheila: Okay.

Natalie: … so that we generate lots of enthusiasm which is definitely happening. The nominations are still coming in so there’s still time to do that. All you have to do is go to look for The Great Canadian Wine and Cheese Match and either nominate a wine and vote for it or just vote for what’s there already and then we will be announcing the winners sometime in late June, just before Canada Day.

Sheila: Oh that’s interesting. Is this a first time initiative?

Natalie: We have done this match previously but not with this cheese themed.

Sheila: Okay.

Natalie: The first year we did it we just chose Nova Scotia lobster or a BC salmon and so on but this is the first time we’ve really taken the deep dive into one category of Canadian food with Canadian wine and cheeses. Questions I most often get asked as a wine writer are about pairing wines and cheeses. I get lots of other questions as well but the one that comes back over and over again is “Okay, what about these kind of cheeses?”  Cheese has such a range of flavours just as wine does. They’re both products of fermentation. There are so many different combinations that are possible and that’s not meant to be overwhelming. It’s meant to be an exciting sort of taste journey that you can experiment with.

Sheila: A lot of other people feel like “Oh! That’s a no no, you can’t possibly try that wine with that cheese.” You’re an expert and you’re saying essentially, try what you like. You can’t go down the wrong path as some might suggest, is that fair to say?

Natalie: That’s right and you don’t need to get caught up in the perfect pairing with other types of food. Steak doesn’t just go with Cabernet Sauvignon. Have a beautifully oak full-bodied chardonnays with that. You can do the mixing and matching because it is about taste and taste is personal. You may well discover that some combinations you don’t like but that’s good learning, too. You’ve learned to explore your own palate and find what combinations you like personally. I found some wonderful pairings in other food categories like Champagne and potato chips … shabby-chic. The most unusual food and wine, sometimes, will go together and that’s what we’re exploring here with cheese and wine. There’s just so many different flavours. If you look at cheese itself there’s different degrees of salt and maturity and milk solids. Does it have that blue tinge, the molds? There is a vast spectrum of flavours. Then you go to wines and you have a light Riesling all the way to a full-bodied Cabernet or a dessert wine or an ice wine.It’s pretty exciting.

Sheila: Now it sounds pretty exciting and very easy to participate in. The voting ends on May 31st and you’ll be announcing the winner or should I say winners in June by Canada Day.

Natalie: Exactly.

Sheila: So what do the winners get? What is the price?

Natalie: Besides fame and glory?

Sheila: Yes and accessibility to a lot of people that would like to drink and pair the wines and cheeses.

Natalie: They will get that experience of pairing and when you nominate a wine you know you can choose to put your own profile picture so other people are seeing what you love. There is a lot of fun with that already happening. The wineries themselves are getting involved in sharing or re-forwarding these nominations and votes on social media. The people who are participating are getting a lot more followers on Twitter and Facebook. We do have 3 gift baskets of fine Canadian cheeses and gourmet foods. Among them is Balderson and some other kinds of gourmet gift items for those who nominate or vote for wines who don’t have the most votes.

Sheila: Oh wonderful.

Natalie: You just have to participate. It’s all about participation.

Sheila: We’re out of time. Thank you so much. Natalie MacLean who’s the editor of Canada’s largest wine reviews. Lots of great ideas and pairing wine and cheeses.


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