A Wine & Cheese Night #MadeinFrance

I think it’s possible that my own personal heaven is made of cheese. There are palaces of cheddar, stilton, Parmesan, and brie with baguettes for pillars, decorated with tapestries, curtains, and rugs made of all kinds of charcuterie. Of course there is an elaborate cellar filled with wines, and my cup never runs dry. So when Whole Foods approached our French #Winophiles group about participating in a promotion celebrating the wines and cheese of France, I knew I was in.

As part of this promotion, Whole Food has provided our group with wine and cheese samples and recommended love matches between the two. (All opinions here, however, are my own.) We’ll be joining Whole Foods in a kickoff Facebook Live event tomorrow, Thursday October 5 at 5:30pm EST / 4:30PM CST / 2:30PM PST.  Whole Foods master sommelier Devon Broglie and cheese buyer Cathy Strange will be chatting with us about some of the pairings. Check the Whole Foods website for a full list of recommended pairings.  

I took this one, but photo credit on all the other beautiful wine and cheese photos goes to Greg Hudson.
I happened to have planned a get together with a couple of girlfriends who are also in the wine biz. We had a lot to celebrate! Heather and Jessica had each recently passed major wine exams–the CMS Certified Exam and WSET’s Diploma Unit 3 exam respectively. Both extremely difficult and huge accomplishments. I couldn’t think of a better crew to share and taste this bounty with Greg and me.

There happens to be a particularly wonderful Whole Foods near my place in Oakland, so I headed there to pick up some of the recommended cheeses along with all kind of goodies to complete the spread.

Jacques Bardelot Brut Champagne Les Roches Blanches NV & Hervé Mons St. Nuage

Champagne seemed very much in order since we had so much to celebrate. I wasn’t able to find much info on the house, but with a suggested retail value of $29.99, the Jaques Bardelot Les Roches Blanches Brut was a good value Champagne. It was crisp with a nice chalky minerality and notes of crisp apples, citrus, and a little marzipan. The fruit notes became rounder as the wine warmed and opened up a bit and headed towards baked pear. Overall, really good QPR and a great option when you want to serve Champagne without breaking the bank.

It was paired with the Hervé Mons St. Nuage, which happens to be a Whole foods exclusive. This is a triple-cream soft-ripened cow’s milk cheese made in Burgundy. Nuage means cloud in French and it was appropriately named, as it had a wonderfully gooey, creamy texture. The flavor was delicate and mild, but had a nice hint of saltiness and a light perky tang.

All good things here. The wine and the cheese paired off of each other quite well, as the bubbles refreshed the palate after each creamy bite. Silky prosciutto and baguette slices made delicious additions to this combo.

Domaine de la Fruitiere Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine Sur Lie Gneiss de Bel Abord 2016 & P'tit Basque  

Muscadet tends to be a really mineral-driven wine, but we found this one from Domaine de la Fruitiere to be on the fruitier side for the category. This wasn’t a bad thing at all as we thought that little bit of extra fruit made it pretty versatile, approachable, and really easy to drink. There was a slight candied melon note on the mid-palate, before finishing with crisper notes of green apples, lemon, and sea minerals.

Vines for this wine are farmed organically, it’s fermented in tank, and the wine spends 5 months on it’s lees. With a SRP of $13.99, this would make a really solid, everyday House Wine–I might have to go get this again.

P’tit Basque is a semi-hard sheep’s milk cheese. (The one I bought was from Istara.) Traditionally, shepherds made this cheese with curds leftover after milking their ewes. It must be aged for a minimum of 70 days. As the name suggests, the cheese comes from France’s Basque region, close to the Pyrenees Mountains and the Spanish border. Given that, it’s probably not surprising that the cheese was reminiscent of manchego, but perhaps a little milder and with a slightly creamier texture. There was a delicious nuttiness to the flavor.

When paired together, more of the wine’s minerality came out. At the same time, the fruit still held up well.

Jessica had brought a gazpacho that I also enjoyed with this wine. The gazpacho had a smoky, toasty note to it that brought a little flinty note in the wine as well.

Alain de la Treille Chinon 2015 & Mimolette  

In the past when I’ve done similar wine and cheese tastings, I’ve often found Chinon to be one of the most cheese-friendly red wines. The grape of Chinon is Cabernet Franc, and it tastes pretty different from versions made in the New World. To start with they’re more medium-bodied. They have a mix of earthy, herbal, and fruit notes that tend to complement many flavors in cheese; but they’re not so big and burly as to either overwhelm or compete with them. This was no exception–we found this to be a really versatile wine that paired well with many or the cheese. It was definitely a group favorite.

The Alain de la Treille Chinon 2015 had ripe black cherries, plums, and raspberries alongside the bramble and herbs that are characteristic of the region. It also had notes of kirsch, licorice, light pepper, black tea, and hints of red floral tones. The light spice notes are all coming from the grapes themselves, as this wine is vinified and matured in stainless steel. It spends 10-20 days macerating on the fine lees which most likely adds texture, and the wine is then lightly filtered before bottling.

The Mimolette was delicious and has a great story to go along with it. Jessica works at a store that sells both wine and cheese and shared the background. The origin story of this cheese began in the Netherlands, but France’s King Louis the XIV was a fan. At some point, however, one of France’s finance minister implemented really strict trade policies. So trade with the Netherlands was brought to a halt. King Louis requested that production begin on a replacement for the popular cheese, so his people went to work on it around the city of Lille. To give it color and make it distinct from the Dutch version (which still exists), it is seasoned with annatto which gives it both a nutty flavor and orange color. The cheese kind of looks like a cantaloupe when it’s whole due to the (probably apocryphal) fact  the King Louis was also partial to the melon.

The Mimolette is a cow’s milk cheese and can be enjoyed at various stages of aging. Ours was by Isigny Sainte-Mère and “aged,” but for how long is uncertain. It did indeed have a nutty, almost malty, flavor with a salty bite. For a point of comparison, it was kind of somewhere between an aged cheddar and an aged gouda.

I really liked the wine and cheese independently, and they worked really well together. The wine became more rounded and velvety when sipped alongside the mimolette, and the fruit notes took a step forward. This was probably my favorite pairing of the night. I particularly liked this combo with some za’hatar spiced crackers I’d purchased. They  brought out more exotic nuances in the flavors of the wine and cheese.

The combo also went well with a wide selection of charcuterie, including more intensely flavored salami. Finally, this wine also went well with some very tasty meatballs that Jessica had contributed to the party. 

Paul Jaboulet Aîné Biographie Côtes du Rhône 2015 & Saint Angel 

The Paul Jaboulet Aîné Biographie Côtes du Rhône 2015 was our final wine of the day. It was a solid, easy Côtes du Rhône on the fruitier end of the spectrum–apparently, 2015 was a particularly ripe vintage in the Southern Rhône. It also had notes of star anise and old spice box.

Although I wasn’t able to find much on the Biographie (srp $14.99), Paul Jaboulet Aîné is a benchmark producer in the Rhône. They were established in 1834 and are particularly celebrated for their Northern Rhône wines, although they have holdings in both the north and the south. The property was purchased by the Frey family about 10 years ago and they set about the ambitious effort of converting to the estate vineyards to biodynamic principles. They also encourage sustainable practices among the growers they work with. 

(Note: I found out during the Facebook chat that this was the first vintage of the Biographie and Whole Foods purchased the entirety of the US allocation.)

Greg baptized the Saint Angel as the “butter cheese”  because of its super luscious, creamy consistency. It was really mild in flavor, but had a luxurious pâté-like consistency. It’s a triple-crème, soft ripened cow’s milk cheese with a bloomy white rind. Cream is added to the mixture for an extra velvety texture. We really liked this one (as well as the Hervé Mons St. Nuage) various fruit spreads–in particular a sour cherry preserve and a delicious spiced tomato jam (made by my good friend Julia over at @siliconvalleycreative)

This cheese is actually also made in the Côtes du Rhône area. Despite coming from the same region, the pairing of the wine and the cheese was missing a little wow-factor for us. That said, they didn’t interfere with each other either–they just kind of each did their own thing. Additionally, both of these are such easy crowd pleasers that it’s pretty hard to put up much of an argument here.

The wine was also a solid match for the charcuterie and the meatballs. I’d like to try this Côtes du Rhône with a blue cheese–I think it’s light jammy factor would contrast well with those sharper flavors.

A very nice thing about this particular mix of wine and cheeses is that many of them worked with a good degree of versatility with other items on the table. If for some reason I had to pick two wines to go with though, I’d take the Champers and the Chinon for their ability to pretty much hit it across the board.

These happen to be the pairings we’ll be discussing during the Facebook Live event tomorrow and I’m very excited to hear more about them. I’m absolutely looking forward to trying a few more matches in the near future and will of course share them here as well. Here’s a full line up of all the recommended wines provided by Jeff at Food Wine Click!

Great Ideas for French Wines and Cheeses! Take a look at all the great French Wine and Cheese ideas posted by our French Winophiles, thanks to Whole Foods Market!
A Curated List: Wines and Cheese from France #MadeinFrance by Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla

Domaine de la Fruitière Muscadet + Baby Octopus Salad #MadeinFrance by Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla

Up Your French Wine & Cheese Game With Whole Foods & the French Winophiles by Jeff at Food Wine Click!

Building the Perfect Cheese Board #MadeinFrance by Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla

Stinky Cheese Matches Wine with Depth #MadeinFrance by Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla

One Stop French Wine and Cheese Party: Whole Foods Market by Jeff at Food Wine Click!

Pairing French Cheese and Wine: #MadeInFrance by David at Cooking Chat

#MadeinFrance; A Wine and Cheese Tasting Event by Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm

Savoring French Wine and Cheese #MadeinFrance by Jane at Always Ravenous

Made in France: Wine and Cheese Pairing Facebook Discussion TODAY by Gwen at Wine Predator

Pumpkin and Fish Stew #PumpkinWeek #MadeinFrance by Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm

A Wine and Cheese Pairing Party #MadeInFrance by Martin at Enofylz Wine Blog



  1. LOVE this post. Thanks for sharing...and it was such a fun event.

  2. When I go to heaven I want to be your room mate!!

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