A perfect wine and cheese pairing for holiday gifting.

Whether there’s a wine and cheese lover on your gift list, a gourmand, a boss for whom you never know what to buy, or you’re invited and want to show up with something thoughtful and festive for the host, I have the perfect pairing for you–Pinot Noir and Comte cheese. I discovered this pairing on our recent trip to Burgundy for the Hospice de Beaune wine auction. It was four days of vineyard visits, tastings and meals that always, always ended the deliciously traditional way–with a course of local cheeses as the last pairing for the marquee wine of the meal, a French red Burgundy which is of course, Pinot Noir at its ultimate. This mind-blowing pairing defines synergistic, teasing more from both the wine and the cheese than either reveals on its own–and given the legendary complexity of Burgundy and the flavor-packed Comte, that’s saying something. Here’s the lowdown on both the cheese and the wine:

Pinot Noir – Make it a French red Burgundy if you can because the subtlety and firm acidity make Burgundy the perfect Pinot choice for this match. I chose Jean Bouchard Santenay for this pairing because it’s fairly broadly available and doesn’t break the bank the way Burgundy can, and if you do want to splurge on the wine, Burgundy is a pairing that will make the most of it. As a backup plan to Burgundy, a structured and subtle Oregon Pinot Noir such as Sokol-Blosser would be perfect. Either way, you’ll get abundant sour cherry, red currant and pomegranate fruit, and subtle sweet spice and mushroomy earthiness, all of which scream, “Pair me!”

Comte cheese – Also called Gruyere de Comte, this protected-origin cow’s milk cheese comes from the Franche-Comte region of France. It is a firm, pressed cheese with a brushed natural, inedible rind. Eaten straight as a partner to the wine (with a hunk of crusty bread if you like), the cheese smells both nutty and a little tangy like buttermilk. The crystals crunch gently in the mouth and then the cheese melts and spreads as you chew, tasting at once nutty, mushroomey, and buttery-sweet. (Yes, please!)

During the Hospice festivities I also had the chance to taste Comte paired with Burgundy’s benchmark Chardonnays – both a powerful barrel-fermented Albert Bichot Corton-Charlemagne, and the more elegant Long-Depaquit Chablis Grand Cru. Both were marvelous matches with the Comte, and worth the splurge. I hope you enjoy this wine and cheese pairing, and I look forward to hearing what you think!

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