Generally speaking, I'm not a Wine Spectator reader. Though I appreciate its existence and someday aspire to have a need for detailed information on the best ways to stock my personal cellar, I just don't have the means (or the storage space) to truly take advantage of what it usually has to offer.
Their September 30th issue, however, practically leapt off the magazine rack when I passed it in the grocery store recently. "100 Great Cheeses!" it trumpeted from its cover. "Best Wine Matches!" "Delicious Recipes!" What can I say, I'm a sucker for that kind of talk. I bought it without even opening to the table of contents. The dozen or so glamour shots below the title probably didn't hurt, either.
When I got home and had a chance to look at the venerable wine magazine's coverage of their classic pairing partner, I was impressed. Contributing Editor Sam Gugino first walks readers through "Cheese's Coming of Age," summing up Americans' evolving taste for cheese over the past decade and effectively whetting the reader's appetite. From there, the magazine delivers on the promise of the cover: "100 Great Cheeses." Note that title - this isn't a list of the 'best' cheeses, or even a comparison of the cheeses they do mention. It is a collection of recommendations (or a checklist, if you're more ambitious like me) meant to expand the reader's horizons and to introduce a wide range of truly noteworthy cheeses.
The entry for each cheese is concise but informative. Graphics indicate the type(s) of milk that go into the cheese and a ballpark pricepoint. A brief description of the cheese - with details on its origin, its characteristics, and a recommended wine pairing - follows. Alongside the list are a few recipes, some Q&A and more detailed examinations of five popular types of cheese (Alpine, Cheddar, Goat, Washed-Rind and Blue). And it wouldn't be Wine Spectator without a couple of wine suggestions, so the feature closes with recommendations to pair four types of wine (white, red, sweet and port) with cheese plates featuring a variety of complementary cheeses.
All in all, this is actually a pretty impressive introduction to cheese and I would certainly encourage you to look for a copy if you're at all interested in learning more. But it did leave a couple things to be desired from my perspective, most notably:
- Organization. The list was printed alphabetically by name of cheese. Though this is very useful if you know exactly what cheese you're looking for, it tends to cause headaches if you try to use the list as a more comprehensive reference tool. While the descriptions of the five popular categories I mentioned previously include the names of the relevant cheeses from the list, there is almost no way to determine which cheeses bear comparison to one another, or to seek out a particular style of cheese to see which listed cheeses fit the bill.
- No Local Representation. Because the article limited itself to cheeses that are readily available from online retailers, it's not overly surprising that none of our fantastic local cheeses (Meadow Creek's Grayson, Everona's Piedmont, Blue Ridge Dairy Mozzarella) made the list. Even so, it's disappointing to be snubbed - especially when Grayson is available through Murray's and several other online retailers.
Have you read the articles yet? If so, what did you think? If not, does a list like this hold any interest whatsoever?