Domaine La Tour Vieille 2009 Banyuls Roussillon, France
This French dessert classic has been our go-to wine when asked for something to serve with chocolate. This gorgeous semi-sweet red comes from Banyuls, a region in France’s Mediterranean just north of the Spanish border where the old vines, (in this case over forty-five years old) cling to terraced slopes so steep that all harvesting must be done by hand. Very much like port in that it is a fortified wine, but here you find a bit more restraint on the sweetness scale. Full and round in the mouth, lots of dark cooked berry fruit with a gentle hint of cocoa and plenty of refreshing acidity which keeps it from coming off too sweet.
This is a layered cheese from England that most assuredly offers two great tastes that are great together. The base is a Double Gloucester, a cow’s milk cheese that most closely resembles Cheddar, with a thick slab of Stilton, England’s most renowned blue cheese, in the middle. Not only very cool looking, this cheese is powerful and full from the blue veining, but softened out by the creaminess of the much milder Gloucester. Tremendously flavorful cheese to just nibble on and absolutely brilliant on cheeseburgers or thinly sliced and left to melt on a freshly grilled steak.
Not being much of a sweet eater I’m always looking for an interesting, delicious and satisfying way to end a meal and have found that a nice chunk of cheese, served with a slightly sweet wine ends up being just enough without pushing anyone over into over-indulgence. Some might raise an eyebrow at the idea of calling Banyuls slightly sweet but when I was putting this pairing together I was also handed a glass of Paso Robles Zinfandel to evaluate and I shit you not, that Zin was far sweeter and Port-like than this "dessert" wine is. Not to mention the Banyuls had way more acidity which made it more balanced and hell, the alcohols were almost the same! So yeah, if people have the nerve to call that a table wine then I'm going to be okay with calling this semi-sweet.
This pairing is as much about texture as it is about flavor harmony. The coming together of rather big flavors; the dried berries in the wine and the sharpness of the blue cheese all seem to get cradled, softened and mellowed into the most sublime rich, almost sauce-like texture in the mouth. Achingly addictive, this pairing and after sampling a few staff members on the two, watching the wedge of cheese get hacked away at as they went back for, "just one more to make sure we love it" tastes and glasses were not only drained but refilled...I can safely say this is a crowd pleaser too.