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Wine & Cheese the Key to a Happy Life

By: Darren Gall Posted: November-23-2009 in
Darren Gall

Wine & Cheese the key to a happy life?

The Greek philosopher Epicurus (341 BCE–270 BCE) lived by his own code, being that the main purpose of philosophy was to help attain a tranquil and happy life. His school of hedonism was more rational and less indulgent than the name implies and whilst the inscription on the front gate was said to read “Stranger, here you will do well to tarry; here our highest good is pleasure”, the school dealt with the simple and some would say minimal things one required in life to find happiness. Indeed, in his excellent book ‘The Consolations of Philosophy’ Alain de Botton concludes the Epicurian wish list for happiness as: A home, Friends, Freedom from superiors/infighting/competition, and finally Thought.

Epicurus was quoted as suggesting that 'The beginning and root of every good is the pleasure of the stomach. Even wisdom and culture can be referred to this'. However, for him the food was simple; he was happy with a dinner of bread, vegetables and a palm full of olives. 'Send me a pot of cheese, so that I may have a feast whenever I like', he once asked of a friend. Such were the tastes of a man who had described pleasure as the purpose of life. He may have forgotten to request a jug of wine to accompany the cheese, but I prefer to consider this a mere oversight on the part of historians rather than an indictment on the great man himself!

“Send me a pot of cheese, so that I may have a feast whenever I like”

On the last Wednesday of every month Damian Cooper, Food and Beverage Manager at the Intercontinental Hotel Phnom Penh, myself, local wine industry colleagues, friends, guests and Phnom Penh’s ‘Epicurious’ have been gathering at the Intercontinental Hotel to feast on our own version of ‘a jug of wine and a pot of cheese’. Spending a few precious hours with a grand array of fine wines and imported chesses is, as life’s simple pleasures go, an evening of profound joy.

“How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?”
Charles De Gaulle

Half an hour in any French Bistro listening to the chatter will tell you that still, today, no one has come up with a practical answer to De Gaulle’s famous question but, even greater perplexity is faced when you try to work out what wine with which cheese!
Today, I thought I would share with you my own home spun philosophy on pairing wine and cheese and invite you to join me on the last Wednesday of every month, to challenge my thoughts, put my recommendations to the test or simply continue your own pursuit of Phnom Penh’s Epicurian pleasures.

A Simple Guide to matching Wine & Cheese:

Pairing wines and cheeses from the same region is often a good place to start. For example, a good Italian Chianti and potent Parmesan provide a fascinating mix.

Remember that the harder types of cheese (i.e. Mature Cheddar or Parmesan) can handle more tannic wines.
Creamy cheeses, such as Brie, typically pair better with wines that have more acidity.

Give salty cheeses a sweet wine partner (i.e. Blue Cheese and Port).

Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Blends: Consider, Cheddar, Colby, Danish Blue, Gorgonzola, Gouda, Mature Cheddar

Chardonnay: Brie, Camembert, Livarot, Saint Paulin, Gouda, Gruyere, Provolone

Brut Champagne: Beaufort, Brie, Camembert, Cheddar, Chevre, Colby, Edam, Gouda, Gruyere, Parmesan

Dessert Wine: Crème Fraiche, Mascarpone, and especially consider a blue cheese such as Roquefort

Gewurztraminer: Boursin, Camembert, Chevre, Muenster, Swiss

Merlot: Camembert, Cheddar, Gorgonzola, Gouda, Gruyere, Jarlsberg, Parmesan

Pinot Gris: Cheddar, Asiago, Edam, goat cheese, Gouda, Mozzarella, Muenster.

Pinot Noir: Brie, Camembert, Feta, Livarot, Gruyere, Monterey Jack, Muenster, Port Salut, Swiss

Port: Blue, Gorgonzola

Riesling: Brie, Blue, Colby, Edam, Gouda, Monterey Jack

Sauvignon Blanc: Asiago, Brie, Cheddar, Feta, goat cheese.

Shiraz/Syrah and Shiraz Blends: Cheddar, Edam, Gouda, Parmesan

An edited version of this story was published in the Phnom Penh Post

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