Last Thursday we were invited to take part in an evening of decadent wine and cheese at Mercato. Five exclusive cheeses from France and Italy perfectly matched with five Italian wines, how could we say no?
For those of you that haven’t ventured down Campbelltown way and checked out Mercato, it’s well worth the trip. Stocking everything deliciously Italian, from cured meat, cheeses, pastas and sweets to soda, liqueurs and (most importantly) wine, the venue also hosts a café and bar where you can have Nonna’s handmade pasta with a glass of Chianti’s finest.
The host for the evening was Valerie Henbest of Smelly Cheese Shop. This vivacious self-confessed ‘Cheese Tragic’ was a wealth of knowledge. There was a focus, not only on the sensory aspect of eating cheese, but also the history and origins of each sample. Valerie encouraged us to think of cheese as having a ‘terroir’. A term usually reserved for wine, it refers to the product being a reflection of the environment in which it is produced. For wine this can refer to soil, climate and terrain but for cheese it can include the diet of the animals producing milk, the age of said animals and the season in which the milk was collected. In a fast food society it is nice to slow it down and get caught up in the story surrounding taste.
Our favourite cheese on the line up was Ossau Iraty Basque originating from Aquitaine in France, and one of the first cheeses ever produced. It’s a sheep cheese that is best when made from milk produced between March and September. This is due to the sheep being taken to the mountains to feast on springtime flowers. The resulting cheese is semi hard and ivory coloured with a creamy and nutty flavour.
The complementing wine was 2010 Castello Di Neive, a Pinot Nero (Noir) from the Piemonte region in Italy. The family owned and operated winery produces wine which is stored and aged within a castle. The resulting wine has flavours of forest floor, mushrooms, earth and smoke.
Wines for the evening were selected by Mercato’s own Chris Sarandis and were designed to both compliment and enhance the flavours of each cheese. Set with the tricky task of finding wines that didn’t overpower the cheese, but simply complimented it, he did a commendable job. The wines added a different dimension to the cheeses and allowed more flavours to be seen.
Suffice to say we will no longer be looking at a humble cheese board the same way again. You can find all produce featured on the evening at Mercato, or source just the cheeses at the Smelly Cheese Shop in the Adelaide Central Markets.