Did someone say French Wine and Gourmet Grilled Cheese? #Winophiles

I bet I’m not the only one who comes running if someone so much as whispers “French Wine and Cheese”!

You could simply say brie, but you’d have me doing a 400 yard dash for

  • “Camembert” — a cow’s milk from Normandy
  • or “Emmental” — a cow’s milk from Savoie
  • or “Brillat-Savarin” — a cow’s milk from Burgundy
  • or “Roquefort” — a sheep’s milk from the Pyrenees
  • or “Delice” — a cow’s milk from Burgundy
  • or  “St Augur” — a cow’s milk from Auvergne
  • or Crottin de Chavignol — a goat’s milk or chèvre
  • or “Morbier” or “Mimolette”  or …
  • so many cheeses, so little time!

Major AOC cheeses: the size of the symbol equates to the size of production (from Wikipedia)

According to Wikipedia, there are 1600 distinct types of French cheeses! There are so many different cheeses that in 1962 President Charles DeGaulle wondered how one could govern a country with 246 distinct cheeses!

This month, with host Martin Redmond, the French Winophiles say “Bring on the cheese!” As one of the French Winophiles writers sponsored by VinConnexion this month, I received sample wines from Chateau de Sales in Pomerol and Cave du Vendômois in the Loire Valley to pair with at least one French cheese.

With June 15 being #DrinkChenin Day, and because last Saturday we wrote about Dornier’s Chenin Blanc from South Africa, and since we had a sample of rose of Chenin Noir from Loire, I asked Sue when she was at Whole Foods where she was getting cheese if she’d find a bottle of Chenin BLANC, suggesting specifically a wine from Vouvray in the Loire.

In my research I learned that while they are both Blanc and Noir and Chenins, and they are also both known as Pineau, the two grapes are not related to each other!

For our menu, we discussed doing a cheese dessert plate, but then we went with a tried and true favorite that we hadn’t done in awhile: grilled cheese.

Hard to get cheesier than grilled cheese!

I was inclined to go with a Croque Monsier or Madam like we did in August 2017  (especially since I had the ingredients on hand!) but Sue was feeling inspired to go for a wider range of grilled cheese flavors rather than focusing on only French cheeses for the grilled cheese, so we kept it more simple: a triple cream brie, an herbed brie, and a St Augur blue cheese, plus a few more that she made to pair with a few other French rose wines we’d be writing about in a post for International Rose Day at the end of the month.

Menu Featuring French Cheese

  • Cheese plate:
    Herbed brie, Delice triple cream brie, St Augur blue, brined olives, raspberries
  • Oysters
    raw — no we didn’t cook and add cheese to them!
  • Salad:
    Fresh blue and raspberries with blue cheese on spring greens
  • Gourmet Grilled Cheese on homemade wheat and purchased sourdough breads including
    Apple with St Augur blue
    Pear and herbed brie

Wines: Red from Bordeaux, Chenin Blanc and Chenin Noir from Loire

2018 – Le Cocagne – Coteaux du Vendomois Rose of Pineau D’Aunis- 14%
sample for my review consideration and for participation in this month’s #Winophiles

This Rose is made from 100% Pineau D’Aunis, a red grape that is also known as chenin noir and mostly grown in the Loire. Pin refers to the pinecone shape of the grape clusters. While the grapes may have once been planted in Aunis, it’s not widely planted there today.

A favorite of King Henry III, it was imported in barrels marked “vin clairet” and it may have been blended with grapes of a deeper hue to give the wine more color.

Plantings have been in decline, with around 1000 acres in 2009, making this a relatively rare wine in any of its forms — sparkling, red, rose, and even a wine wine that is produced by pressing the grapes with as little skin contact as possible.   

The AOP Coteaux du Vendômois includes 28 communes in the Loire between Vendôme and Montoire, in “an area full of troglodytic houses and cellars dug into the « tuffeau » stone.” Now this I’d like to see!

Vines are planted on 350 hectares of south facing hills near the Loire river. The 12 independent winemakers and 10 cooperative members generally practice polyculture.

Color: Rose gold, pink, beautifully catches the light, tinges of corral, but not orange. There is a brightness to this wine when poured into your glass

Nose: Nice complexity, fruit, floral, grasses, minerals, and then you go round again. Citrus flowers for the floral, strawberry for the fruit, like walking on grass, a bit of nice morning dewey freshness. saline for the minerality.

Palate: Raspberry, lots of acidity, lemon citrus on the finish. While the pear and brie was good with the Vouvray, it was out of this world with this wine.

Pairing: Sue couldn’t wait to have this wine with the ham and brie sandwich. Fantastic with a Delice triple cream brie. Fabulous with a brie and pear sandwich. The herbed brie was fine with the rose, but made us want to go straight to the red wine.

2017 – Champalou – Vouvray Chenin Blanc – 12.5% alcohol – SRP $20
Sue purchased this wine at Whole Foods.

This wine, also known as Pineau de la Loire, is not your grandmother’s chenin blanc.

The Champalou family has been in the wine industry for several generations. They established their domaine in 1984 where they sustainably farm their twenty-one hectares of vineyards on clay, limestone, and siliceous soils using the lunar calendar and with cover crops between vineyard rows. Their 10,000 cases of wine annually are made with indigenous yeasts, and come in four styles: sparkling, dry, semi-sweet, and botrisized.

Color: Pale yellow with a green tinge, there is a clear rim because the wine is that pale

Nose: Clay earth, and pollen. Almost like you are walking in a meadow with clay soil and is full of buttercups in bloom. It is not an earthen funk as we have described some wines to be, it is a clean earthen clay. In a chardonnay glass I was able to find a bit of tart green apple on the nose as well. After the wine has opened up, some of the clay goes away and a bit more of the fruit comes forth.

Palate: This is a very exciting wine on the palate. Lemony tart with a clean mineral finish. I felt it was a bit like when one puts lemon juice on a granny smith apple.

Pairing: This wine has fresh oysters and seafood written all over it. When paired with an oyster, the Pacific oysters becomes very creamy, With a Kumomoto, it is much more tart and saline. Such a beautiful pairing it leaves you wanting more. Sue also loved this wine with the brie and pear grilled cheese sandwiches. One of the brie and pear sandwiches, Sue added spiced nuts, and this was an out of the world pairing with this wine.

Why we don’t do grilled cheese more often ? What an amazing meal.

While many people think of Vouvray and Chenin blanc as sweet; this is not. There are a range of wines from Vouvray– one for every palate!

2010 – Chateau de Sales – Pomerol – Heritiers de Lambert – 14% alcohol – SRP $40
sample for my review 
consideration and participation in this month’s #Winophiles

A blend of 82.5% Merlot, 12.5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine from Château de Sales “is the only Bordeaux estate to be entirely transmitted from one generation to the next since the 15th century. After belonging to the same family for over five centuries, Château de Sales is jointly owned by 14 cousins, who want to make it a reference in terms of quality, image and family management, in view of passing the estate on to the next generation.” About half of the 90 hectare estate is planted in vines. Wines are fermented  in thermo-regulated concrete vats then aged in 15 to 20 % new oak for 12 months.

Color: Deep maroon, burgundy, burnt sienna, corral rim, very dense

Nose: Cherry, cigar box, cedar, sandalwood, vanilla, dried rose petals, makes you really want to keep hanging out with this wine. What a beautiful nose!

Palate: This is not a cocktail wine, but can be completely enjoyed on its own. It is tannic, but the tannins are balanced. For a 2010, this could be cellared for another 20 years.

What a great special occasion wine: Buy this 2010 wine today to mark something that happened in that year and open it on a special anniversary later on.

There are hints cherry, sage, lavender, Herbs de Provence. I kept thinking of artichokes on the finish.

Pairing: We loved the St. Augur cheese with the wine. It is a very intense pairing. One of the sandwiches was a blue cheese and apple grilled cheese on a whole wheat loaf that Sue made. Our opinion after pairing this wine with the sandwiches was, who needs a steak?

Most meat eating Americans are going to want this wine with a Rib eye steak or Filet Mignon with blue cheese, and on a subsequent day, I did just that and it was a wonderful pairing — matching intensity with intensity and contrasting the bright fruit with the juicy, fatty cheese and meet.

A more interesting pairing would be an Elk burger or a rack of Elk. Sue makes an Italian BLT where she fries some salami or pepperoni first then places herbed mozzarella or jack, tomato, fresh basil leaves, and the fried cured meats on the sandwich. Then she grills it on a sandwich.

Also think of mushrooms, and if you’re not focused on French cheeses, try an earthy cheese such as tellagio or a truffle gouda, or add a bit of par cooked asparagus to your sandwich for a bit of herbal green umuami, especially when on a whole grain artisan bread which you can find in your local organic market, or farmers market, if  you do not want to make it yourself.

Lots of pairing options with this wine!

Here’s what some of our wine and food writers will be sharing about French wine and cheese.


We’ll be chatting about French Wine and Cheese on Saturday, June 11th at 8a PT/11a ET.  We love visitors and this promises to be a yummy chat.  Just follow the #winophiles hashtag on Twitter to join the conversation!

À votre santé!


20 thoughts on “Did someone say French Wine and Gourmet Grilled Cheese? #Winophiles

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  4. Love the cheese map a lot! It’s so fun to learn about the cheese AOC too. The Vouvray Chenin Blanc seems to be a wonderful match with the brie and pear…of course oysters!

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. Really nice pairing notes! It does matter what type of oyster you pair with the wine, since some are creamy and other are more briny. And yes, I do agree that a great grilled cheese sandwich can make you forget about steak. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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  8. Quite a selection of cheese you put together. What really caught my eye in your article is the Elk burger with the Chateau de Sales, sign me up! Can imagine that’d be a super pairing. How about an Elk burger with herbed mozarella?!? Love game, now I just need a grill 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Okay, of course you had oysters. You always make me so jealous with your oysters. I love the idea of a grilled cheese platter, rather than a cheese platter! I might need to do that for a party. And your description of the Vouvray “Clay earth, and pollen. Almost like you are walking in a meadow with clay soil and is full of buttercups in bloom.” I need to find this wine! Last question…favorite source for glasses (for finding glasses for each wine type)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you!
      OYSTERS!! WE are so lucky to have The Jolly Oyster right here by our house; they bring them up each week from Baja.
      GLASSES: I’m just always on the lookout for excellent glasses on sale and I swoop them up! Estate sales, Target, BevMo, thrift stores — you name it! Unfortunately the good ones break so easily! Sometimes I put the bowl of a nice glass that’s lost its stem in a tumbler. Those don’t show up in the photos!


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