France. Cheese. Wine. Sounds like the perfect combination, right? But have you ever stood in a wine or cheese store in France and been so overwhelmed that you simply don’t know what to choose? There are something like 400+ cheeses (and wines???) in France so choosing one can be challenging especially if you don’t know what to look for or ask for or you just don’t recognize the names in front of you…
I’ve spent enough time in France over the years to know a few cheeses I can look for and that will not disappoint, and certainly my in-house sommelier has taught me a little bit about choosing wine and how to choose what I like as well as what will match the food I am making but I am always keen to learn more so I was excited to join La Cuisine Paris’ cheese and wine workshop last month.
Not so much a cooking class or a walking tour like La Cuisine’s other offerings, this two hour (€80) workshop takes you to a gorgeous fromagerie where the cheesemonger and the La Cuisine chef will walk you through a selection of goat, sheep and cow’s milk cheeses (with tastings, bien sûr!)
After that you’ll head to a local wine store where you’ll learn everything from how the wines are organized in a French wine store to how to read a label. You’ll choose a couple of wines to go with the cheeses you picked up in the store then head back to the school for the tasting portion of the workshop. It’s a really nice introduction to shopping for wine and cheese in France and I’d recommend it at the beginning of your trip so you can feel more confident shopping for the remainder of your time in France.
Back at the school, we were provided with a tasting sheet where we were encouraged to note down the texture, the smell and taste of the cheeses and the colour, nose and taste of the wines (both individually as well as together – the tastes of both the cheese and wines change, sometimes dramatically, when they are combined).
You’re also provided with a “cheat sheet” of wine growing regions of France with a handy explanation of what types of wines are produced where as well as information about the different types of cheeses and some tips for tasting both (it’s important to serve both at the right temperature). The five cheeses we tasted (depends on the season, what’s good and what the cheesemonger recommends on the day) were:
Brie de Meaux
So a really nice representation of different types of cheeses (and different levels of pungency!) – a kind of “Cheese 101″ if you like!
Towards the end of the tasting, Chef Eric encouraged us to mix and match the wines and cheeses, just to see what the pairings were like. A few people discovered pairings they liked better – even though it might not be “the right” pairing according to what wine “should” go with which cheese. At the end of the day, what I loved about this workshop was how Chef Eric stressed that “tasting (wine and cheese) is a very personal thing” and that the best wine is the one you like to drink, no matter what the critics say.
This was a wonderful introduction to pairing wines and cheeses – we left with a lot of information that will be very useful when shopping for cheese and choosing a wine to go with it but, like any great class, there was a lot of information at different levels, meaning you took away from the class what you needed to take away. Everyone in the class said they felt confident to go and buy cheese, based on tasting these few different types and were encouraged to know that if you pluck up the courage to ask in the wine store, they will be more than happy to recommend a wine to go with that. As I said, it’s a wonderful class to take at the beginning of a trip so you can head out to shop for your French meals with enough knowledge to make good choices and really take advantage of two things France does very very well.
Disclosure: I was a guest of La Cuisine Paris at this workshop. I was not asked to write about it, nor am I being compensated for doing so. All opinions 100% my own.
Many of you will know I’m in France for most of the summer. While I am slowly blogging about things I do here, the best way to keep up with me is by following my photos which you can do on my Summer 2014 set on Flickr or Instagram where I am @eatlivtravwrite (if you don’t have the app on your phone you can still check out the photos online.