By Tania Thomas
Wine and cheese are a truly perfect pair. An especially satisfying experience is to enjoy the two together after a hard day of playing in the snow. Imagine a roaring fireplace, snowed-in mountain lodge and a pot of warm and gooey cheese fondue. Heaven!
As a national dish of Switzerland, fondue was associated with rustic mountain life from the lowlands of western, French-speaking, Switzerland. A rich and expensive Gruyère cheese was used for its preparation with the addition of wine and seasoning.
If you feel inspired; get started by rubbing the pot with a halved garlic clove. Add slightly heated white wine and grated cheeses and keep stirring until melted. If you want to get really fancy, add a splash of kirsch and it’s ready.
Then invite some friends over and start dipping bite-sized pieces of bread speared on a long fondue fork. The only thing to remember is no double-dipping and to bring dipped morsels to your plate first, before eating them.
Enjoying a pot of fondue with friends is also fun. Tradition has it that if a man drops his bread in the pot, he treats everyone with a drink. A woman, on the other hand, kisses her nearest male dinner.
Fondue comes in many variations. Sprinkle some shaved truffles and you have a fondue à la piémontaise.
Fondue can also be spicy with the addition of chili peppers or deliciously woodsy when wild mushrooms added.
If there’s one wine style that goes with any kind of cheese it would be a white wine with just a touch of sweetness.
Delicate sparkling wines, Rieslings and Gewurztraminers would work very well with many cheeses, from rich and creamy to hard cheddars.
They are a perfect match to all styles of fondue as well. If reds are your preference, choose a lower-tannin wine such as Gamay or Pinot Noir.
Here are a few of my favourite Ontario matches from the LCBO’s Vintages listings:
From the vineyards planted on the rolling hills along the Niagara Escarpment comes this juicy sparkler. Vinified in the Méthode Traditionnelle from Chardonnay grapes only. Featherstone Cuvée Joy won Best Sparkling Wine of the Year at the 2015 All Canadian Wine Championships. Instead of the traditional mushroom-style cork, it’s closed by the bottle cap for easy access (no sabering required). Well balanced and complex with crisp acidity and aromas and flavours of lemon drops, ripe apples and buttery brioche mingle on the tongue in a cloud of fine, persistent bubbles. For a touch of heaven, pair with triple cream Brie or Camembert.
Lively, just off-dry Riesling, crafted with the grapes grown at the estate’s oldest vineyards’ on the Short Hills Bench in Ontario’s Niagara. Fresh and fruity with crisp acidity. Bursting with aromas and flavours of white peaches, green apples and lime zest with a touch of minerality and petrol on the long, clean finish. Match this beautifully aromatic and flavorful Riesling with fondue, as the sweetness and acidity complement the nutty flavours of the cheese perfectly.
As the classic red varietal of Beaujolais, gamay has certainly found its second home in Ontario’s sun-soaked Niagara Peninsula, nestled between the two Great Lakes. Malivoire crafted another great expression of the grape with this juicy and bright medium-bodied beauty. Fresh and fruity on the palate, it’s bursting with aromas and flavours of wild strawberries, ripe cherries, plums and raspberries, with a touch of spice, leading to a long, vanilla-toned finish. Gamay makes for a perfect charcuterie and cheese board companion.
Vinified with 100% county grown Pinot Noir that beautifully showcase that unique sense of place and character of the County wines. Medium-bodied, dry and fruit forward, it’s bursting with aromas and flavours of red fruit; sour cherries and cranberries with a touch of earthiness. It closes in a long, lingering, smoke-tinged finish. Try it this winter with deliciously satisfying, gooey and creamy cheese fondue.
Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW)
As a child, Tania helped her parents pick grapes in her family’s Croatian vineyards, and then later with winemaking. As an adult, she lived abroad in London, England, Milan and Venice, Italy, and explored the food and wine cultures while traveling throughout Europe.
While living in Toronto, Tania completed studies with the International Sommelier Guild (ISG). She continued her wine education with the prestigious, internationally-recognized Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), based in London, England. In 2007, she achieved the WSET Level 3, Advanced Certificate in Wine and Spirits.
In 2013, Tania was awarded with a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) designation by The Society of Wine Educators, based in Washington, DC. She is currently studying for the organization’s Certified Wine Educator designation.
Tania also offers sommelier services and tutored wine tastings, consulting and wine tastings via RunawayGrape.com and is a regular columnist with NatalieMacLean.com as well as the wine expert for Rogers Daytime Television.