Combination is much more than the sum of its parts

Why is that cheese and drink go so well together? And why are they more than the sum of their parts? Because they have a lot in common.

Drinks like beer, wine, sherry and port and genever (Dutch gin), whisky, cognac and rum are made from natural ingredients just like cheese.

Whether it’s milk, grapes, cereals, cane sugar, fruit or other aromatics, they are all converted into another form during the production process. The ground and the climate also play a great role for all these ingredients, for example the soil the grass grows on from which we get milk and the specific terroir for the wine.

During the cheese-making process, bacteria and enzymes in the milk convert with a new flavor, aroma, color and texture, just as in drink, a natural process converts starch into sugars and alcohol.

The weather also has a large role in the ripening of the grapes or the growth of cereals or sugar cane just like the ripening of Reypenaer and Wyngaard cheeses. Warm weather means more flavor, cold weather, less. The warmth in the daytime ripens grapes and cool nights provide cooling creating a balance. This also applies to the warm summers and cold winters and their effect on the development of Reypenaer cheeses.

These natural variations are essential for producing the depth and complexity of the flavors and aromas.

The flavor develops further during the ripening. With cheese, 80% of the flavor is developed during the ripening process. New elements arise out of the natural process, but also out of the surroundings in which the ripening takes place. The cask in which spirits are matured, the composition of the cask wood, the degree to which the wood has been charred and the drink that matured in the cask beforehand, all have an important role to play.

The distinct iodine aroma from the sea in whisky from the islands of Skye and Islay can easily be compared to the flavor the Reypenaer cheeses acquire from the micro-climate in the old warehouse. During the long maturation process, spirits like whisky, cognac and rum lose some of their volume to evaporation, the “angels’share”.

Cheese also loses some of it’s weight to the ripening process and that can even reach 25%. The differences between a one year-old Reypenaer and a Reypenaer VSOP are unbelievable, never mind the the difference with a Reypenaer XO, just like the differences between a two or a six year-old whisky.

The older cheeses go with older drinks better because a longer ripening process produces more flavor. Better combinations and aspects of flavor are achieved this way. By combining all these drinks with cheese you can even discover new aspects of flavor like: fruit, nut, herbal, caramel, honey and even mineral flavors.

The very fine sorts of mustard from Maille also produced exciting interchanges of flavor.

Credit: Reypenaer