The Taste Workshops: cheese pairings with wine and beer

26 July 2021

Perusing the Taste Workshops can be daunting when there’s such an embarrassment of riches on offer, so today we’ll focus on the sessions which focus on the perfect pairings of cheese with wine and beer.

For fans of raw milk, grapes and hops there’s a sea of unique tasting opportunities on offer.

Wine and beer glasses are present in practically all our Taste Workshops, but in some they play a leading role.

Taste Workshops mixing extreme beers with blue cheese

blue cheese
A blue cheese at Cheese 2019. Photo: Alessando Vargiu

There are three unmissable Taste Workshops in Bra that focus on pairings of beer and cheese.

We begin on September 18 with a meeting of Italian Grape Ales and regional cheeses. Regional cheeses highlight more than a link with their area of origin; the information they provide is awash with minute details. The pastures and local vegetation, the season of production – even the day –, the animal breeds… Italian Grape Ales (or IGAs) are beers made using grapes, one of the prides of the national craft brewing movement and one of the more visible examples of how the creativity of Italian brewers can deliver innovative masterpieces. What’s more, IGAs display a link between the breweries and their local context like few other beers can.

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Also on September 18 we hit you with a bolt from the blue… blue cheese that is! Marbling is typical of some great cheeses like stilton, roquefort, gorgonzola and other blue cheeses from around Europe with unique flavors and aromas. When you have the perfect accompaniment, of course, success is guaranteed. Beers offer an extraordinary opportunity in this respect, particular barley wines with their intense caramel tones, imperial stouts with their toasted, licorice feel and some clear beers aged in barrels. In this workshop we’ll discover some fascinating combos.

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Then on September 19 we propose a chromatic combo with pale summer ales and fresh white cheeses. The peculiarity of blanche, helles, pils and summer ales make them the perfect accompaniment to robiola cheeses. In this workshop we’ll taste five cheeses and as many beers, exploring the variations we can achieve through pairing.

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Nine times wine in Pollenzo

As in previous editions of Cheese the Wine Bank in Pollenzo is the place to be to match raw milk cheeses with fine bottles. We have nine workshops on offer here, from world-famous classics to more experimental labels.

The big names: Barolo, Amarone and aged cheeses

Castelmagno Amarone
Mountain Pasture Castelmagno, Slow Food Presidium. Photo: Valerie Ganio Vecchiolino

On September 17 we welcome Valchiusella toma, whose wide range of aromas come from the variety of plants which the cows graze on in pastures over 2000 meters high. To pair we have two Barolo vintages, ten years apart, from three producers: San Giovanni by Gianfranco Alessandria of Monforte, Cerequio by Michele Chiarlo of La Morra, and Bricco Sarmassa by Giacomo Brezza & Sons of Barolo itself.

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On September 19 we present a great vertical tasting of Amarone and Castelmagno. The wines of Tenuta Sant’Antonio have a precise and elegant style, the product of environmentally-friendly agronomic management and the use of modern technology in the cellar. From the reserves of the Wine Bank we propose a vertical tasting of Amarone della Valpolicella Campo dei Gigli, the flagship label of this winery (years 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2013 and 2015). To pair with this grand wine of Veneto we have a Piedmontese cheese that’s equally capable of improving with age: Mountain Pasture Castelmagno, a Slow Food Presidium, here offered at a range of ages.

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The lands of the Slow Food Presidia

canestrato pecorino
Castel del Monte Canestrato, Slow Food Presidium. Photo: Slow Food Archive

On September 17 we journey to Basilicata and Campania, pairing different Aglianico wines with mozzarella and caciocavallo cheeses. As well as PDO Buffalo Mozzarella we have Mozzarella in Myrtle, Slow Food Presidium, a fresh caciocavallo made with raw cow milk; Basilicata Caciocavallo Podolico, which is subject to long aging periods, especially for the larger forms that weigh from four to eight kilos; and a caciocavallo from Campania by Latterie Gargiulo of Gragnano.

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On September 18 we explore pecorino in both its forms: as a wine and a cheese! Pecorino, or “sheep’s grape” owes its name to the link with lands dedicated to pastoralism and an ancient white grape variety native to central Italy. we propose a diverse selection, together with a selection of Presidia pecorino cheeses: From Abruzzo, Farindola Pecorino produced using pig rennet – unique in Italy and perhaps the world; Castel del Monte Canestrato from the pastures of Gran Sasso; Sibillini Mountains Pecorino made with raw milk, half-cooked and aged naturally; from Campania, Carmasciano Pecorino, from a four-kilometer pasture in the Ansanto Valley of the Irpinia highlands.

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There’s another entirely Presidia-based Workshop on September 19. In Piedmont we pair raw milk Coazze Cevrin cheese made from a mix of Chamois goat milk and cow milk with Carema wine cultivated on terraces in a natural amphitheater; then our second pairing is Robiola di Roccaverano, a historic goat cheese whose aging aids the development of pastoral aromas, together with Strevi Moscato Passito. From Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, we have the Sole, Rabbi and Pejo Valleys Raw Milk Casòlet, a mountain cheese made from full-fat milk and without cooking the curds, together with Vino Santo Trentino.

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For the adventurous gastronome we have oxidized wines, Vermouth, the cheeses of Spanish affineurs and more

Fiore Sardo wine
Shepherd’s Fiore Sardo, Slow Food Presidium, Sardinia. Photo: Alberto Peroli

On September 19 we have a workshop we’re particularly excited about: a pairing of oxidized wines and aged natural cheeses. All the wines in this workshop are part of a new selection of Triple A labels that aim to demostrate how, for some wine,s oxidation is an essential feature of their sensory profile: we’ll taste two Marsala wines, a sherry, and two other Italian bottles. The Triple A wines are proposed together with these spectacular natural cheeses: Queso de Cabrales from Asturias, Spain, Mountain Pasture CastelmagnoHistoric Rebel and Shepherd’ Fiore Sardo.

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On September 20 we present the cheeses of Quesería Cultivo, renowned affineur of Madrid, who ages, selects and distributes some of the finest Spanish cheeses, including Isla Corazón, Picón Bejes Tresviso DOP Javier Campo, Mahón Curado DOP Nicolás Cardona and Jondal. To pair we have a Torinese drink that’s perhaps even more popular in Spain than its homeland: Vermouth!

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Stories of resistance and animals

girgentana goat
The Girgentana Goat, Slow Food Presidium, Sicily. Photo: Alberto Peroli

We conclude this roundup with two Taste Workshops that are exercises in storytelling. On September 18 we welcome Valentina Bergamin, a dairy enthusiast from Lombardy and first winner of “best taster in Italy” as awarded by the National Cheese Tasting Organization (ONAF). SHe tells us three stories of producers who work with three different animal species: cows, goats and sheep. The cheeses we make from the milk of these animals represent an unbreakable bond between the people who care for them in the best way possible, by raising them wild.

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On September 18 we have stories of resistance, of people who firmly believe in good, clean and fair food, with fair underlined. Centopassi is the enological wing of the Libera Terra cooperative, which repurposes lands confiscated from the mafia. Over their 25-year existence they’ve refined and improved their productions, reaching high standards of quality. The vineyards are spread across Sicily, from sandy, iron-rich soils where catarratto grapes are grown, to the splendid high-altitude winery at Portella della Ginestra. To pair, we have ethically-produced cheeses from the Abruzzese cooperative Il Gocio based in Civitella del Tronto, who specialize in sheep and goat cheeses.

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by Silvia Ceriani,