Fruit Wines and Manchego Cheese, Made and Enjoyed in Costa Rica
We love the farmer’s market here in Perez Zeledon, Costa Rica. They call it the Feria and it’s the size of a soccer stadium, so there’s no surprise that we visit every week. One week while we were picking up our salad supplies and giant collection of vegetables, we walked past a table with mini bottles of wine. Since they were small, we could get a couple and not commit to a standard sized bottle of wine. Ok I’m in!
Then as we continued down the aisle, we saw a booth with samples of cheese available to taste. We’ve been coming here for a long time and farmer’s cheese here is typically sold in big cylinders of non-descript varieties. The one they were giving samples of were individually shrink wrapped in wedges. I hadn’t seen this one before, so I asked a few questions and tasted it. Then we had the cheese we’d be pairing with those mini bottles of wine.
For those of you who’ve been fans of WineAndCheeseFriday for a while, you know that Costa Rica wines are usually made from fruits other than grapes. If you haven’t read about the wines here, click on the links at the end of the entry. We have seen the brand Don Julian with blackberry fruit before but only in the standard sized bottles. There were half a dozen other fruits available that day and they were all “tropical” flavors, I was curious.
We picked out star fruit (carambola) and soursop (guanabana) to try. As we looked at the bottles a little more closely, there was a discrepancy of the size, one bottle said 50ml and the other said 200ml. Whatever size they were, we had plenty to each try them. And if you’re curious, each bottle cost 1000 CRC which is about $2 each.
Since these wines aren’t made from noble grapes, we wrote down the color of each wine so we could keep them straight. The star fruit wine was an orange color that kind of reminded us of a rosé. I was pretty surprised once I noticed that it was from 2008. As I swirled the glass it smelled sweet and dry and reminded me of a fortified wine aroma. Neil described the aromas as sweet and smoky. There was a thick texture and nutty finish that seemed kind of like pralines. Neil said it tasted the same as it smelled: sweet and smoky but added in that it was almost like a chili pepper with the tanginess of star fruit.
The soursop had a yellow color and was a little newer with a 2012 vintage. I found aromas of banana candy, caramel and a hint of nuts. Neil agreed with the banana aromas and said it also smells like the soursop fruit. If you’ve never had soursop, it’s kind of like eating custard in the shape of a fruit, http://www.tradewindsfruit.com/content/soursop.htm. This wine had a smooth texture with nutty flavors and a hint of sweetness in the finish. Neil said it definitely tasted like soursop and banana pudding with a little bit of tanginess and slight alcohol. This was definitely a different wine than other ones we’ve tried before but I thought it was pretty interesting!
Now that we’ve told you about those little bottles of wine, let’s get into that new cheese. The branding on the package told us the name, Pedregoso Lacteos (translated to milk products from Pedregoso-one of the nearby towns). They also told us the day that we purchased it that they are on Facebook. So not only are they another example of artisan cheese in Costa Rica, they are also getting their name out there. Super Cool!
We purchased a Manchego that was made from goats milk instead of the traditional sheep milk. Neil identified salty, funky and milky aromas. I described the flavor as salty, a little tangy and good. The texture seemed to be different for each of us though, I thought it was slightly crumbly while Neil said it was more of a squeaky texture. His tasting notes were slightly salty with a little funk but fairly mild.
During the pairing of star fruit wine and manchego, I picked up tropical fruit and fruit punch aromas and the wine still had the nutty finish. The cheese smelled funky with salt and alcohol. Neil noticed a change of texture in the manchego, with it becoming more crumbly, then found some delicious fruit flavor in the cheese. The wine increased in it’s star fruit flavors but also had more alcohol. Typically an increase in alcohol isn’t great but it’s known to happen with higher alcohol wines and aged cheese so I guess it was right on track.
When pairing the manchego with the soursop wine, I thought the wine smelled and tasted similar to the wine on its own but it was very nutty. The cheese smelled salty and this time I had the texture change to be more sticky. There was a richer salt flavor in the cheese and the wine seemed more syrupy. So both the wine and the cheese changed textures on me. Neil picked up more soursop flavor and slightly more alcohol. The cheese changed like it did with the other wine, fruity flavor and more crumbly. He liked it!
Since these were fruit wines we decided to add a few fruits to our tasting, pineapple and strawberries. Neil thought it was very interesting that when he paired the pineapple with the star fruit wine, the wine tasted like a rosé. I did the pairing too and was reminded of another drink here called aguadulce, a hot drink made from sugarcane. When I tried the strawberries with the soursop, it was a nutty wine with strawberry finish, peanut butter and jelly I’d guess.
With all these sweet fruity flavors, we had some plantain chips on hand for cleansing. So fun to use all these local treats in this pairing.
Both wines had a level of interest for us, they weren’t just overly sweet. We thought they were pretty good and maybe nice for a hot afternoon. Such different flavors with all those nutty notes, I’m glad we tried them. Although we were a little concerned that they might have been too old, the tasting proved that wasn’t the case.
I’ve been keeping my eye out for that manchego in recent weeks but I’m not sure if they are still coming out to the Feria. Maybe I’ve just been missing them. I’ll have to look closer this week!