“So, this might be a stupid question but is Roquefort just a blue cheese? What I mean is are all blue cheeses Roquefort or is it its own thing?” a customer the other day mussing about our little cheese case. I informed her that Roquefort was its own thing, a salty, slightly grainy sheep’s milk cheese from France, considered one of the classic French cheeses in fact but one I’ve been forced to stop stocking for lack of sales which resulted in expired product, (although expiration dates on cheeses sort of bug me and are way too early in the cheese’s maturation period if you ask me). I showed her another blue which she purchased and thanked me for the information before leaving the shop. “Where’s the Stilton?!” Randy sort of bellowing in my direction from the cheese case where he stood trying to assist a customer buying a bottle of port. “I’ve stopped carrying it Randy” my words twisting his face into a question mark and before I could get another word out he quipped, “But, but, it’s a classic” to which I responded, “A classic that doesn’t sell and I end up having to toss in the garbage when it expires.” He stood there looking somewhat deflated and confused and asked that I try and pick another cheese to go with port, fairly easy for me, just grabbed a wedge of Roaring 40s blue and sent the customer on his way. Then in January Randy and I were at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco tasting all kinds of cheese and upon walking away from the cheese pagoda Randy says, “That Stilton wasn’t very good”….classic.
Not sure exactly what has caused the shift away from Roquefort and Stilton within our store, if the cheeses themselves have changed, which I seriously doubt seeing as they’ve been made the same way for like ever, or if the shift has more to do with the fact that there are a lot more options when it comes to blue cheeses now. Other old school blues from Europe that weren’t exported, or much of it anyway, before and the explosion of artisan cheese makers that have burst on the scene over the past 10 years. Either way I haven’t been able to move though a complete wheel of Stilton or Roquefort without having to throw at least some away for being past their expiration date. Oh sure, whenever I state that being the reason I’ve stopped carrying those once beloved cheeses, (on the fairly rare occasion that I am asked anymore) customers offer the ever-so-clever, “You should have called me!” cracks me up every time I tell you….sigh, but when it comes down to the people that are buying cheeses regularly, the ones that fund my little cheese department and are actually plunking down their cold hard cash, they are simply buying other blue cheeses….classic or not.
A few days ago I did a post where I listed five wines that I would devastated to live without and asked, or encouraged others to do some thinking and share their top five or whatever. Kind of fun for me to read the answers, even the smart ass ones, (Thomas, I’m looking at you) but more than fun I found the whole thing pretty fascinating. There were some rather glaring omissions, wines barely mentioned that have long been considered, “the best” or classics which I found to be really interesting. I actually went through the comment section and did a quick tally of the top mentioned styles/varieties and it broke down something like this...
Sauvignon Blanc/Rose (Tied)
Those were the top four wines mentioned by the readers that took the time to think about it and respond. Now I think we should keep in mind that these are responses from people that read my blog which is clearly French leaning and the wines I wax rhapsodic about here are often the lighter, more elegant and graceful and not the meaty and powerful, so the people that read my silly junk are probably likely to drink things along the same lines…although I know folks like Ron and Charlie drink bigger wines regularly. The one thing I kept asking each time I opened an email alerting me there was a new comment, “Where are Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay devotees?!” those classic and iconic wines that always hold the top spot in terms of sales and wear the aura of being somewhat “aspirational” or noble, what gives?! To be fair Chardonnay was mentioned once, (but I should add that it was after I made a comment about it not being in anyone’s top five. That being said it was offered by someone that is mad about Chardonnay so I totally believe him) as in Chardonnay from California and Chablis was brought up three times but a couple of those were in the, “If I could have just a couple more than five” sort of deal. Cabernet, Cabernet Sauvignon, the big dog, the star, mentioned only once and again, as a “If I could have extra” way and Bordeaux, not offered once! Mind, blown.
Now this isn’t some finger-pointing post where I talk about what the old guys are drinking compared to what the hipsters or younger wine drinkers are ponying up for, that fucking conversation is happening other places, lots and lots of other places and it doesn’t need me to stir that pot any further…plus I don’t give a shit. Got no dog in that fight and no point to prove. Just thought it was truly fascinating that the kind of wine lover that wanders about the wine blog world, the more obsessed and “into it” crowd, least the ones that gather here, would leave three of the nine noble varietals right off their list. I’m sure if we did a “Man on the street” kind of deal, hit up the people that are content buying their wines at the grocery store, they would have lists that looked very different from those in my comment section…just like if I asked those same people what the best blue cheeses are, guessing we would see lots more Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Stilton in their answers. And much like the blue cheeses I was talking about earlier I think there are several reasons for the shift into wines other than Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Some of it might be a reaction to stylistic changes in wine making, (although I doubt that is the case for most the people here) for some folks, but I think as is the case with cheese, there is just so much more great wine available to us now. Not just in the form of newer to us varieties, sure we have those in the pot too, (and not once did anyone mention Ribolla Gialla or Poulsard in my comments section either by the way) but I think the more we travel, as a society, the wider our eyes and more open our palates. We have some fantastically forward thinking importers now, not to mention more of them, ones inspired by the wines grown in the tiny villages they’ve visited as well as knowing that we as a wine drinking country are in fact not only open to, but actively seeking, new flavors and wines that wear a footprint of where they come from. Mix that with technology and younger generation wine makers and we have an amazing array of very high quality wine and often far more affordable than the “Big dog” or “Stars”….kinda winning if someone were to ask me. The classics are there for those that seek them AND we have all this other cool stuff to drink in between.
Sort of cool no?