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Skip the Butterbombs and Pair Champagne with Alpine Cheeses Instead #Winophiles

This month the French Winophiles are opening and pairing Grower Champagne with Martin of ENOFYLZ Wine Blog at the lead. You can read his invitation here...and his preview of the online gathering here.

I'll readily admit: when I first saw the topic, my first thought was, "What the heck is Grower Champagne?!!?" You can read Martin's Q & A in the invitation linked above. But I was instantly intrigued and wondered just how many I could find in the month I had to prep.

First, I had to learn HOW TO: Read a Champagne Label...and look for those tell-tale letters. R and M. I didn't know it at the time that I bought the Louise Brison, but that bottle was a Grower Champagne.

If you're reading this early enough, feel free to join us on Twitter at 8am (Pacific time) on Saturday, August 18th. You can follow along with the hashtag #Winophiles. And certainly take a look at what the other bloggers are contributing to the discussion.

Pair Champagne with Alpine Cheeses
For my post, I decided to pair a Grower Champagne with cheese because, well, because I am a devoted caseophile. One of my favorite family field trips is to North Berkeley's Cheeseboard Collective. 

The blackboard, with its meticulously maintained list, is daunting in its length. Then there are the cases and cases of cheese where the only thing stopping me from whispering, "I'll take a little of everything," was my wallet. It's a cheese-lover's dream realized. Gorgeous rounds and wedges. Pungent to floral. Draped in cabbage or wrapped in straw. Bliss! Of course, whenever I see it, I buy the Camilla cheese! How could I not? 

Camilla, a young goat's-milk disk cheese by Italian cheesemaker Caseificio Reale, has just a little cow's cream added to give it lushness.

But I wasn't going to make it up to Berkeley before the event, so I stopped by the Cheese Shop in Carmel Plaza instead. These are photos from a few trips ago, but the shop is the same - fun and cheesy!

For years, my go-to cheese pairing with Champagne were triple crèmes. Buttery, oozy, and gloriously decadent. Those butterbombs seemed to fit well with the wine's effervescence, basically bubbling your palate clean for more cheese. That's not a bad thing.

However, I would urge you to skip the butterbombs and look to some alpine cheeses instead. I know it sounds strange, but the dense, aged mountain cheeses of France and Switzerland boast nuttiness of browned butter and roasted hazelnuts that can perfectly match the yeastiness of Champagne.

With the Vilmart "Cuvée Grand Cellier" Brut Champagne, I had a shopping list that included Comté which leans to the sweeter side; Gruyère which tends to be more nutty; and Appenzeller is a bit more on the spicy side.

When I asked the cheese monger for his favorite alpine cheeses, he added Mardi Grass, a Swiss-made cheese similar to Gruyère, and Schnebelhorn, a complex raw cow’s milk cheese with plenty of deliciously pungent sharpness, to my bag. And, when I asked for his pick to pair with Champagne, he selected Piave Vecchio which is a nutty, pasteurized cow's milk cheese from the Veneto -  in northern Italy. Its sweet, crystalline paste has a slight almond bitterness. I felt I was definitely on the right track with pairing bubbles with nuttiness!

Jake and I decided that our favorite match was actually one that wasn't on my original list. We loved the Schnebelhorn with the Champagne the best! Great call!

Gooey, Gorgeous Raclette

Perhaps, one of my favorite ways to eat alpine cheese: Raclette. Gooey, gorgeous raclette. Don't fuss - you don't need any fancy raclette equipment to have this delicious, cheesy dish at your house. Here's how...

  • small organic potatoes, quartered
  • salt
  • assortment of pickles (I had pickled asparagus, lemon cucumbers, and onions)
  • Raclette cheese, sliced to  ¼" thickness
  • olive oil

Bring potatoes to a boil in salted water and simmer until fork tender. Drain the potatoes and set aside.

Drizzle a bit olive oil onto a skillet and tilt to coat the entire surface. Put the cheese slices in a single later in the skillet. Place the skillet over a flame or under a broiler. Cook until it is melted and bubbling and just starting to brown at the edges.

While the cheese is cooking, serve some potaotes and pickles on individual plates.When the cheese is ready, use a spatula to slide the melted Raclette over the potatoes.

In the Glass

Vilmart "Cuvée Grand Cellier" Brut Champagne is a blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay and has a sophisticated nose that blends stone fruits and citrus. The palate matches the aromas with peach and nectarine flavors meeting an vibrant acidity. This is an elegant wine that is crisp and intensely focused. Sipping it invigorates the palate while the cheeses leave you satisfied and full. Cheers!

Next month the group will be pairing and writing about Cahors with Jill of L’Occasion. Stay tuned.


  1. You're a culinary wealth of knowledge Cam. Didn't know about the Cheese Board Collective. Love the idea of pairing Champagne with Raclette too!

    1. Really?!? It's on Shattuck, near Andronico' the Gourmet Ghetto. They have a pizza of the day that you have to try if you get there in time. Enjoy.

  2. When I read your title, I thought "butterbombs" referred to Chardonnay, surprise!

    1. Surprise, indeed. I didn't even think about that possible interpretation. Thanks for commenting, Jeff.

  3. I have been to the Cheese Board Collective...heaven! Just like wine, so much to learn and taste with cheese too. Curious to try Schnebelhorn, but I'll need more grower Champagne to pair with that! Great post!

  4. Okay first, I have cheese shop envy. Two amazing places! Luckily I have discovered 2 great cheese shops here in Vegas, but they are a bit of a drive. I will be looking for the Schnebelhorn! I will be trying your raclette recipe!

  5. I love Raclette. So sorry I missed this pairing. I did make it to the International Market where I tried to buy a bottle of Grower Champagne. The wine guy looked at me like I had two heads....

  6. I didn't realize you were a cheesophile Cam! When I lived in Sacramento I'd make trips to the bay area and swing through Berkeley to go to the Cheeseboard. Love that place! And also Appenzeller ;-)
    I wouldn't have though to do Raclette with bubbles but it's brilliant.

  7. Whew --- I almost didn't make it down here after the distraction of vanilla popovers! But glad I did --- I'm fascinating by Alpine cheese, the transhumance of the herd and the terroir-driven flavors. I love this post and hope to try some of these selections. Well-done!


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