February 18 is National Drink Wine Day. And while we fully support this annual occasion, we think it’s missing something. Let’s make it Wine and Cheese Day.
As the old saying goes, every dog has his day. So, it seems, does every food product. There’s Cream Cheese Brownie Day, Roast Chestnuts Day, Noodle Ring Day (we swear we are not making these up)…the list goes on. Considering this, isn’t it appropriate to have at least one day set aside for the fermented fruits of the vine?
Actually, there are at least 32 such occasions, some of which are entire months. But for now, we’re focused on Drink Wine Day…which we’d like to expand to include Eat Cheese Day. Turns out there are some excellent reasons to drink wine. And what goes better with wine than cheese?
Health Benefits of Wine (and Cheese)
We’ve heard it said that a glass a day keeps the cardiologist away. (Please note that this does not extend to a bottle a day.) An article in Food & Wine cites eight studies indicating that moderate wine consumption (defined by the American Heart Association as one to two glasses per day): promotes longevity, reduces heart-attack risk, lowers risk of heart disease, reduces risk of type 2 diabetes, lowers risk of stroke, cuts risk of cataracts, cuts risk of colon cancer, and slows brain decline.
So what about the cheese? Well, there’s the fact that cheese is low in carbs and relatively high in protein…and a good source of calcium. And some British researchers have theorized that cheese—especially blue cheese—could be part of the famous French Paradox. As with wine, moderation is key. Full-fat Butterkäse will put on the pounds faster than part-skim Parmesan. And, as it turns out, the fats in cheese are a big part of the reason cheese pairs so well with wine.
Why Pair Cheese with Wine?
In 2012, researchers at Rutgers University wanted to know why cheese and wine are so compatible. It seems that, as with many people, opposites attract.
The researchers found that astringent foods—like wine, pickles and green tea—complemented fatty or slippery foods like cheese, salami and sushi to create a balanced mouthfeel (a fancy food science term for how things feel in your mouth). The fatty foods lubricate and coat your mouth, while the astringent and acidic foods cut through that coating. And that relationship gets better as the meal goes on; the dry feeling you get from wine increases and the slippery feeling you get from cheese decreases, until nirvana is attained in your mouth.
Of course, not every such pairing works; cheese isn’t so special with green tea, and pickled ginger works much better with sushi than does a dry, tannic red. It may be more cultural than chemical; East Asian people tend to be lactose-intolerant and were historically unfamiliar with grape wine, while Europeans didn’t know sashimi from Szechuan. So while Japan over centuries cultivated its practice of nibbling pickled ginger between bites of sushi and washing it down with a sip of tea, so did Europe finely hone its famous pairings of wine and cheese.
Wine and Cheese Pairing and Party Ideas
The best way to celebrate Drink Wine Day (and Eat Cheese Day) is to invite friends over for a little tasting. Naturally, we’re more than happy to provide some ideas.
Check out these tips for wine and cheese pairings. The same advice that holds true for the big holidays is still solid for occasions like this. Knowing the various types of cheese will allow you to offer an exciting variety. And this piece about putting together the perfect Thanksgiving cheese platter will help you with the right presentation.
So pick out your favorite Wisconsin artisan cheeses, find the right wines to go with them (we have pairing information for all of our cheeses) and celebrate National Drink Wine Day with a wine and cheese experience you’ll want to repeat every year!