There are a few things that really irritate me about the nature of that recent scientific investigation into wine and cheese pairings. It's like The New Scientist studied a small wedge within the world of the foodie but went on to publish sweeping generalizations. Click on the small piece of the cheese wheel pictured above for their limited findings (which, could be summed up to "All cheese ruins your ability to appreciate wine"). Then click on the full wheel of Emmenthal cheese for a nuanced and more complete report (thanks to the consultation of a sommelier). Then at the end of the row, which I consider to be a little evolutionary chart on this wine-cheese conundrum, click on the flavour wheel. Personally, I think this diagram conveys more useful information than the details presented in The New Scientist. Even though the wheel only tries to represent Italian cheeses, you get a feeling that cheeses on opposite sides of the wheel possess very different characteristics -- yes, in fact, the world of cheese can be viewed through more than one single category labelled "cheesy".
But cheesy says it all in The New Scientist report. A cheese is a cheese is a cheese. Mild or strong, soft or hard, from the milk of a cow or the milk of a yak, it's really all the same to a wine drinker. Really? If the purpose to this investigation was to announce that dairy will change the way you taste your wine, then they should've called me. I could've saved them time and money by pointing out that eating ice cream while drinking claret is like a ticket that takes your palate on a trip to a parallel universe. We all know that. We've all been there.
And no one knows this more than professional wine tasters. You never see wine competition judges with a Ritz-Bits travel pack in their pocket. And I can't seem to recall Jancis Robinson packing string cheese for her ventures into Château Petrus. Obviously these people want an unbiased and level playing field when they make their critical judgments on a wine. Which is exactly what differentiates them from the audience this report seems to have been written for: us everyday wine drinkers. The people who don't get paid for sipping. The fact is everyday folk open a bottle of wine for enjoyment. That's part of the reason we don't spit it out after we taste it. We are not going to rate its structure, balance and complexity. We're going to savour it. And I'll be damned if The New Scientist has uncovered my palate's displeasure when I combine goat's cheese with Cabernet Franc. On contrary, this is a wine-cheese combo that proves itself worthy time after time.
It's obvious that some wine and cheese pairings don't produce as much harmony or pleasure. But some are quite exquisite combinations, no matter how many fatty molecules "bind" to the wine or whatever "proteins" dull the tastebuds. This is why tasting is an art and the guy in the lab coat doesn't get it. I like to nibble on a little bread and cheese when I have my favourite wines because it just makes everything around me seem right. Maybe there is some documented logic for why wine and food produces my happy place, but for now, all I can say is that until science disproves the fireworks that go off when I eat chevre with my Cab Franc I'm going to continue assuming that this study doesn't really say much about my wine pairing habits.
So now it's off my chest. I detest this report and the effect its had on the wine blogging community -- not only for a message that gets misdirected to the wrong wine-drinking audience, but also for its sweeping generalizations. Oh poor cheesemaker! Your craft has been reduced to a cartoon-like orange wedge that sits atop a mousetrap. In reality, there is a vibrant and full gamut of unique and individual cheeses out there. Take Schabzieger as a random example. Now here is a cheese that features no milk fat at all. So was The New Scientist speaking on its behalf when is smackdowned the entire cheese-producing industry? In parts of the world that are dominated by French culture, there are uncountable names for types of cheese. Why? Because they are all so different, each one with its own special characteristic. It's like snow and people who live in igloos. There are over a dozen ways that the Inuit convey the idea of "snow". Not because these northern dwellers are especially wordy types but because they've been around snowy stuff enough to distinguish a plethora of notable attributes. Same thing applies for cheese. It's too vague a term to convey much meaning. Especially if you're trying to be scientific about something. Yes, I'm talking to you Mr. New Science.