Chardon-May, Woodlands Chardonnay and New Zealand Cheddar

Chardon-May, Woodlands Chardonnay and New Zealand Cheddar

Where do Chardonnay grapes grow? Have you ever looked into it? The more popular areas are California and France, but as you know we like to explore outside the box. As we went through our previous Chardonnay entries we were really surprised to find out that we’ve mainly tasted California chardonnay. We’re taking the opportunity with Chardon-May to try some of those other regions.

In order to find some wines from different places, we headed over to the Wine Authorities wine shop here in Durham. The salesperson explained to us that Chardonnay is pretty much planted all over the world because it’s a grape that people know. He took me around the shop and showed me a handful of those less common areas for Chardonnay. Despite the fact that Chardonnay can grow all over the place, it did seem quite a challenge to find the less popular examples. After all, why sell those strange ones? I’m probably one of the few people who enjoy those out of ordinary wines. Since we are always planning which cheese we’ll pair with our wines we decided to get a Chardonnay from Australia. We’d already found a New Zealand cheese that we thought could work for the pairing.

The aromas of the wine told me it was influenced by oak: caramel and butter, with no fruit that I could tell. Neil picked up butter, melon and grass aromas. Neil found the flavors to be similar to the aromas, identifying melon and citrus with butter. I tasted flavors that were tart and citrus with an oak finish. This wine tasted very different than it smelled and I thought it was interesting that it was both buttery and tart.

This New Zealand Cheddar was the Cheese of the Month at Whole Foods. In order to continue exploring worldwide food and wine, I knew I’d like to try this cheese. I don’t think I’d ever even considered cheeses in that part of the world. What a perfect chance to try wines and cheeses from “down under”.

During our cheese tasting, Neil had a fun Southern Hemisphere realization. He noticed hay aromas and figured out that although it is Springtime here in the US, it’s fall in New Zealand. Why is this relevant you ask? Well in the spring, cows eat grass and that aroma comes out in the cheese. Cheeses made in the fall, taste or smell like hay. Now you know more cheese trivia, You’re Welcome!

In addition to the hay aroma, he also picked up salt and a little funk. I agreed with all those aromas and added in “It smells like cheese!” We can all think of that token cheese smell. When we tasted the cheese, I found funk, milk, salt, and a light tanginess. There was also a fleeting flavor of honeydew melon, maybe Neil put that flavor in my head from the wine? This cheese coated my tongue and I looked forward to tasting it in a sandwich! Neil picked up a hearty cows’ milk flavor, salt, and hay. We both wanted to just sit there and keep eating the cheese.

We were doing our wine tasting outside and Neil found the temperature to influence the wine’s flavors. The wine tasted like creme brûlée when it was a little warm and more citrus and butter when it was cold. Then as his wine warmed up again there was more caramel. Finally, it was caramel up front and a citrus finish. The combination of Chardonnay and Cheddar made the cheese taste a lot like cream. As I paired the wine and cheese, the citrus in the wine really kicked up. I could identify lemon, lime and grapefruit flavors and there was definitely wine acidity. This wine acidity caused my tongue to get dried out and made the cheese very milky.

Neil enjoyed the flavors of the wine being dependent on the temperature. He found this combination to be a good pairing but also the wine and cheese were good individually. I didn’t think the wine or cheese really changed that much aside from the increase in citrus. I’d prefer the cheese on it’s own. Chardonnay Day is coming up on Thursday, we hope you’re getting some ideas on what you might purchase to celebrate!