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Tuesday, June 18
The Indiana Daily Student

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Creating winning combinations

In America, shopping for food is fairly simple. One can travel to the grocery store once every two weeks to stock up on provisions. In Italy, just figuring out which cheeses to purchase at the local market can be a daunting task.

Living in the capital of Tuscany calls for a certain understanding of Italian food, especially in regard to which wines complement which cheeses. In Italy, most dishes involve this typology of food as seen in their prime pasta dishes, sandwiches and famous pizza.

Cheese, a staple food of ancient Rome, was served at most meals enhanced by garlic, salt, fish or eggs. During the Middle Ages, the popularity of cheese greatly increased production.

As Italy industrialized, so did cheese making as scientific and more efficient production systems helped improve the process.

As the 1980s began, more than 400 cheeses were being produced in Italy, and the production of this food became highly regulated to protect regional varieties and guarantee quality.

In a traditional Italian Renaissance court, a maestro di taglio, or “specialist of the blade,” was paid to cut and arrange different types of cheese according to precise rules.

A cheese board contained a wide selection of flavors and types of cheese. The criteria regarding which wine best coordinated with which cheese soon became essential knowledge for successful chefs throughout Italy.

It is a daunting task to pair cheese and wine with so many options. The most popular cheeses balance each other when paired with the correct wine. One flavor will not override the other, but they instead work in tandem to create an overall enjoyable experience in one’s mouth.

Mozzarella, originally made from water buffalo’s milk in an area around Naples, paired with a light white wine balances the fresh, sweet milky taste of the cheese with the soft and fruity taste of the wine to create a gentle feel to the pairing.

Water buffalo Mozzarella, Mozzarella di bufala, is easily the best type of Mozzarella available in Italy because of the popularity of the antipasto dish, Caprese salad. Made from Mozzarella and tomato slices sprinkled with basil leaves, salt, pepper and olive oil, Caprese salad is typically served with a dry white wine in Italy.

The king of Italian cheeses, Parmigiano Reggiano, has strict laws governing its production. The addition of preservatives to this cheese is strictly prohibited.

Parmesan, used as a sauce rather than a garnish, should be served with a red wine because of the intense flavor of this cheese. Pinot Noir mimics the intense flavor and adds to the overall satisfaction of this internationally popular cheese.

Gorgonzola, typically used in Italian pasta dishes, paired with a rich, aged red wine balances the pleasantly sharp taste of the cheese with the strong flavor of the drink. This sweet, creamy cheese is made in two different versions, dolce and piccante.
Although pairing wine and cheese may not seem important, in Italy it is an experience that has been perfected by Italian wine connoisseurs and chefs.

The correct pairing of the cheese and wine creates a remarkable, engaging flavor that is worth the trouble of spending a few extra minutes at the market.

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