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The best wine matches for Comté

The best wine matches for Comté

After a recent visit to the Jura I've rethought my ideas about which wines make the best wine pairings for Comté cheese.

We were guided through a tasting by flavour analyst Claire Perrot who suggested a couple of matches I wouldn’t have thought of - Champagne and Alsace Pinot Noir.

Comté is France’s most popular AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) cheese by a significant margin selling about twice as much as its nearest rival Roquefort.

It’s a cooked pressed Gruyère style cheese which in fact used to be referred to as Gruyère de Comté. Individual wheels vary hugely though I found them in general more caramelly, nuttier and slightly less salty than Gruyère but less fruity than Beaufort though there will obviously be differences between winter and summer cheeses - summer cheeses being fuller-flavoured than winter ones.

The French tend to eat Comté fairly young which makes it an unchallenging partner to a wide range of wines including reds. Once it’s older, nuttier and more intense you may want to veer towards whites or some of the other suggestions below:

Local dry Arbois whites
The classic local terroir-based match. Most of the ones I tasted were a blend of Chardonnay and the local Savignin grape which gives the wines a nutty, slightly earthy, mineral character which chimes in perfectly with the cheese. I suspect old Muscadet, which I've been tasting recently, would work well too.

Vin Jaune
Arbois’ distinctive sherry-style white is a fantastic match for older Comtés. And on that basis . . .

Dry(ish) sherry
Amontillado and palo cortado being the two wines recommended by the Comté website although since I’ve successfully paired dry oloroso with Gruyère I suspect it would work well with Comté too. (Sherry is more sympathetic to Comté than port, I think.)

The big surprise. I tasted a biodynamic Champagne from Lassaigne, les Vignes de Montgueux, which was just delicious with a 15 month old winter Comté. Vintage Champagne I suspect would be fantastic with older Comtés still.

Aged or minerally Chardonnays
On the basis that Arbois wines containing Chardonnay work well others should too, particularly mature Chablis and other mature Chardonnays such as this one from Kistler that struck gold with a 56 month Comté. You wouldn’t want the oak influence to be too pronounced though.

Old white Bordeaux - an 18 year old Domaine de Chevalier Pessac-Léognan was stunning with both 2 and 4 year old Comtés at a tasting I did with affineur Bernard Antony three years ago.

Alsace Pinot Noir
I may be able to comment more on this when I return from Alsace at the end of next week but I really liked a 5 year old 2006 Schueller Pinot Noir with a fresh, milky six month old Comté. Older burgundies, German and Austrian Pinots should pair well too.

Mature - and immature but not overoaked - Languedoc reds . . .
A surprise perhaps but I’ve drunk Languedoc Syrah - young and old - successfully with youngish Comté.

. . . and mature Spanish reds
I've had striking success with a 9 month old Comté and an 8 year old Navarra red from Chivite. Mature Rioja reservas and gran reservas of course, should work too.

So a number of different possibilities which indicates that Comté is a pretty easy-going cheese which earns its place on a cheeseboard. The common factor in the most successful pairings however seems to be age. Mature wines seem to work particularly well. The wines I’d hesitate to pair with it are high alcohol new world reds with a lot of jammy fruit and intensely herbaceous whites like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc which I don’t think would work as well. I don’t think rosé does Comté many favours either.

Image ©Awe inpiring images

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Comments: 6 (Add)

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Fiona Beckett on August 6 2013 at 07:11

Thanks, Lorraine - only just spotted this!

Lorraine on November 24 2012 at 23:54

What a pleasure to find smeoone who identifies the issues so clearly

Yaz on November 24 2012 at 13:10

Ja..fransoser e4r roliga.Pe5 paperpt runt baguetten som man kf6per hos bagaren kan man le4sa sme5 meningar som har med brf6d att gf6ra.Ex.:."Long comme un jour sans pain-une journe9e interminable" (Att ha det tre5kigt som en dag de5 man e4r utan brf6d-en oe4ndlig dag)."Etre dans le pe9trin"(Att vara i tre5gen=att ha hamnat i en besve4rlig situation)."Avoir du pain sur la planche"(Att ha brf6d pe5 bre4dan=att ha mycket att gf6ra)."La banette 1900:sous sa crofbte se cache une palette d arf4mes subtils"(Banette 1900(ne5n typ av baguette):under skorpan gf6mmer sig en palett av subtila aromer)..Det vore spe4nnande om du fe5r besf6ka byns bagaren en hel natt se5 vad vi fe5r le4sa om vad du fick vara med!ClEr

Lhisda on November 24 2012 at 11:34

Tack ff6r en bra blogg. Skf6nt att veta att man inte e4r ensam i brf6dtre4sket. Jag har ff6rste5tt att du e4r ff6re4ldraledig - det e4r jag ockse5. De5 e4r brf6dbakandet en he4rlig utmaning! Jag udanrr om du har utvecklat ne5gra se4rskilda rutiner, eller undviker du bara att baka ne4r barnen e4r vakna? Me5nga recept har ganska me5nga steg som man inte kan skjuta pe5 ff6r mycket. Jag har ne5gra skre4ckminnen av tillfe4llen de5 barnen skrikande dragit omkring mina byxben medan jag blandat, ve4gt och he4llt och ff6rsf6kt he5lla me5tt, temperaturer och tider i huvudet utan att explodera.Om ett par veckor e5ker jag till Marocko med familjen. Det blir spe4nnande att se brf6dkulturen i norra Afrika, men jag antar att ne4rheten till Frankrike har betytt en del.Ha det bra!

Fiona Beckett on July 4 2012 at 08:27

Thanks, Steve. There are so many interesting wine matches with Comté I hadn't got round to considering beer

Steve on July 3 2012 at 11:42

And in terms of beers try a porter or brown ale!


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