- July 15, 2019
Cheese and wine seem to be a ubiquitous pair that you may be wondering how and why these two became a couple. No one knows when did cheese start to become popular with wine. What studies have established thus far is that the fatty chemicals in cheese complement the astringent compounds in wine, giving the latter a fuller taste. However, some insight can show how wine became paired with cheese when comparing the relationship of the evolution of wine with the invention of cheese.
History of wine and cheese
Wines were invented shortly after humans have learned to domesticate wild grapes as early as 10,000 years ago. It was also the same time that humans developed agriculture, which marked the shift from a nomadic to a sedentary lifestyle of building permanent settlements. Fermentation, a technique common to the production of wine and cheese, was invented in response to the need to preserve food stocks, mainly grapefruit extracts and milk. Food preservation through fermentation ensures an adequate supply of food in between harvest seasons, further reducing the need to hunt for food.
Current archaeological data suggest that the invention of wine slightly predated that of cheese. Whereas evidence of wine fermentation dates back to 9,000 years in pottery fragments in China, the earliest pottery related to cheesemaking was dated to be 8,000 years old, from a site close to Switzerland. If wine was invented earlier than cheese, it means that people have been drinking wine way before they stumbled upon cheese as a perfect complement.
However, given the geographic distance between these archaeological sites and the uncertainty of dating techniques, there is some room to speculate that the invention of cheese and wine could have overlapped. After all, the domestication of grapes and milk-producing cattle roughly coincide with each other. If this was the case, there’s the possibility that semi-nomadic pastoralists who were cheesemakers could have come across the wine and made it famous in Europe and Asia through word of mouth.
Wine regions and cheese pairings
Despite the uncertainties in dates, food historians have observed how particular wine and cheese pairings seem to crop up only in certain regions. For example, the Brie region in France is known for its Beaujolais wine and Brie cheese pair, while north-central Italy’s Brunello is often paired with Asiago cheese. This would make sense, primarily if the regions have long been known to produce both wine and cheese, or when one town that made wine was near another town that made cheese. The proximity of cheese and wine production sites would have influenced how wine and cheese wound up as a staple pair in these areas. This pairing tradition would have been passed from generation to generation in those areas before colonialism and globalisation subsequently spread out the concept of wine and cheese pairing to other parts of the world.
Experimenting with wine and cheese pairs
With an idea of where your wine and cheese come from, you can set up a personal experiment to find which wine and cheese pairs best suit your taste buds. The task shouldn’t be too daunting; in fact, it would be fun and worthwhile for you to do.
Grab some friends and ask each of them to bring a bottle of wine and some cheese and simply enjoy the experiment of trying different wines and cheeses and see which wine and cheese pairing gives you the most satisfaction.
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