The Charms of Cheese

By Lori Powell

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tray of cheese
John Kernick

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Aged Queso Manchego, Spain, raw sheep from the Manchego breed
Description: Made exclusively from the milk of Manchego sheep and aged over a year, this firm cheese has a nutty taste with a tangy, sharp bite.
Accompaniments: Dried figs, membrillo (quince paste), olives, cured meats, marconas (Spanish salted almonds).
Wine: Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva 2000, $19, is made from the Tempranillo grape; the wine is a medium-bodied red, with spice, toasty oak, and vanilla.

Cave-Aged Gruyere, Switzerland, raw cow
Description: This firm cheese is dense and creamy, with a beefy, fruity sharpness.
Accompaniments: Dried fruit, nuts, date almond cake, chutney.
Wine: New Zealand's Kim Crawford Marlborough Pinot Noir 2005, $18, combines the full-fruit New World style of pinot noir with traditional European style to create a red wine that stands up to the intensity of the Gruyere without overpowering it.

Quicke's Farmhouse Cheddar, England, raw Friesian/Ayrshire cow
Description: Made on Mary Quicke's farm in Devon, it has a firm texture and tastes fruity, nutty, and grassy, with a mildly sharp bite.
Accompaniments: Apples, chutney, pickles.
Wine: Cave du Rocher Saumur Champigny 2003, $17, is made in the Loire Valley from Cabernet Franc grapes. It is a medium-bodied red, full of herbal and floral notes, highlighting the similar tastes of the cheese.

Cashel Blue, Ireland, pasteurized Friesian cow
Description: It has a creamy texture with undertones of minerals and a mild blue tang.
Accompaniments: Honey, candied walnuts, dried dates, pears, grapes.
Wine: The powerful spice and fruitiness of the Beaulieu Vineyards Napa Valley Zinfandel 2004, $17, tempers the saltiness of the blue and isn't overly oaked, allowing the subtleties of the cheese to shine.

Roomano, Holland, pasteurized cow
Description: In taste it's similar to an aged Gouda -- dense, sharp, and nutty with hints of butterscotch.
Accompaniments: Onion confit, dark chocolate.
Wine: The New World-Old World heritage is evident in the Baron Philippe de Rothschild Escudo Rojo 2003, $18, from Chile. Deep in flavor, it can stand up to the sharpness of the Roomano, but it's not so heavy that it dominates it.

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