Pairing Wine and Cheese – an Artisan Cheesemaker’s View

wine and cheese

I have always felt that pairing great cheese with wine was particularly challenging; so I was relieved to find that Jean-Francois Antony, the purveyor of cheese to Michelin-star chefs around the world, agrees with me. Jean-Francois is the son of Bernard Antony, a highly regarded cheese specialist who provides artisanal, ‘real’ cheeses to Alain Ducasse in Paris, Daniel Boulud in New York and to properties like the Four Seasons Hotel and Shangri-La hotels in Hong Kong.

What makes Antony’s cheeses so special is that the family not only selects quality cheese but also ages them in their own cave in southern Alsace. When I ask Jean-Francois Antony how this ageing process for cheese affects the flavour, especially those aged in their cellar versus others, Antony explains, “ It makes a huge difference. Imagine wine being aged in different conditions in different cellars.” The final flavour of the cheese is derived from the atmosphere of the cellar as well as the microorganisms in the environment, which give the cheese its ‘signature’.

Antony also explains that the entire environment affects final cheese flavours.” For example, even within France, conditions in Paris are very different from the south of France. A friend of mine who moved to the south tried to mature cheese but he could not. I think it is the atmospheric pressure difference and the climate. Ideally, there shouldn’t be too much wind, there must be some humidity and the outdoor climate must not be too hot.”

Working exclusively with raw-milk types, Antony is very particular about selecting and buying only the best. He says, “A cheese maker is ideally just a couple, one or two people; more becomes too big. It is important that one person makes the cheese and sees it through the entire process. We believe great cheese cannot be made by a large team of people.” Only seven people work for Antony and they have no thoughts of expanding their business despite international demand for their hand-selected and matured cheeses. “We like to be small and we want to remain this size,” adds Antony.

We share our experiences about pairing wine and cheese together and we agree on quite a few. Blue cheeses and Sauternes pair beautifully together. So does goat’s cheese with Pinot Gris. Being from Alsace, Antony suggests that I try goat’s cheese with Domaine Weinbach’s Pinot Gris Reserve. Despite popular belief that goat’s cheese should be paired with Sancerre or other Sauvignon Blanc wines from Loire Valley, Antony says he has not been very impressed with this experience. He adds, “I still haven’t found a perfect pairing between goat cheese and wines from the Loire.”

Read Antony’s five tips about cheese here.