I like on the table/ when we’re speaking/ the light of a bottle/ of intelligent wine./ Drink it/ and remember in every/ drop of gold/ in every topaz glass/ in every purple ladle/ that autumn labored/ to fill the vessel with wine—Pablo Neruda
This post is sponsored by Austerity Wine and TheFeedfeed but all words, opinions, and romantic feelings towards wine are my own.
I am surrounded by a symphony of activity; bursts of laughter, voices rising in an unintelligible rumble, the clinking of glasses, silverware tapping against plates, and the gurgle of wine poured from dark bottles. I’m at dinner at The Mighty in Downtown LA hosted by TheFeedfeed and Austerity Wine. I’m observing the unfolding scene, wine in hand, musing at how good food and good wine can so seamlessly bring people together. I’m seated with a group of people—some of whom I’ve only just met—and by dinner’s end I find myself surprisingly at ease with them all. The glass of cabernet in my hand is surely helping.
That dinner really got me thinking about today’s post; pairing the right flavors with the right wine. Some of the most memorable pairings for that evening me were; the baby kale salad with roasted Japanese sweet potatoes, savory granola, and cashew crème fraiche paired with Austerity Chardonnay; the ricotta agnolotti with speckled romaine, asparagus, pistachio, and blood orange paired with their Pinot Noir; and the strawberry crostata with their Cabernet.
The room was buzzing with the joy of such delicious pairings; exclamations of approval, followed by murmurs of appreciation then silence—good food and wine have that effect. This is always my goal when cooking for friends or creating a recipe; I want to create something that brings people together, that gets people excited, that leaves them with fond memories. I had this all in mind when I began to prepare this spring inspired charcuterie spread paired with Austerity’s Cabernet Sauvignon.
I love putting together a charcuterie spread. I’m quick to offer up that it’s one of my favorite meals. Yes, meals. With the right amount of ingredients and variety, I argue that charcuterie or a cheese board is the perfect meal. I bring in different flavors, textures, and ingredients. I always head to my local farmer’s market first thing to grab the best of what’s in season. I like to select several meat and cheese options as well as creating some sweet or savory elements of my own to complement the fare.
Now, when it comes to building a charcuterie board to pair with wine, there seems to be two types of people; the classical traditionalist and the whimsical nonconformist. The former is strictly guided by the wine being served—what would best compliment the acidity, tasting notes, the body of the wine etc… While the latter buys the wine and lets their mood guide them towards ingredients—what do I feel like indulging in while enjoying this wine—never mind the subtle complexities of the flavor profile. Where do you fall? I think I’m typically somewhere in the middle…leaning towards whimsy.
For today’s spread I decided to focus on both what was in season and what would best compliment the wine, while adding on a few items I just had to have! Austerity’s cabernet is a full-bodied red with ripe cherry notes followed by licorice and sweet oak. To compliment the bold tannins of the wine I opted for hard aged cheese, an array of meats that weren’t overly spiced, sautéed meaty mushrooms, and the bright bold fruits of the season.
This spread is more than enough to provide a large group with several delicious bites or a smaller group with a filling meal. You can always downsize or expand depending on how many people you are entertaining. Even for smaller groups I tend to buy more than is necessary—I’ve been known to subsist on the leftovers for days thereafter!
I like to pick 2-3 cheeses minimum and for this spread I chose a comté, aged gouda, and an aged white cheddar. For the meats I chose a salami that wasn’t overly spicy and wouldn’t spoil the flavor of the wine (sopressata), jamón serrano, and an uncured rosemary ham. At the farmer’s market I grabbed fresh strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries, along with some apples, grapes, and dried and fresh citrus. I also spotted some morels and sautéed them in butter and garlic along with some criminis to put on the olive oil seared toast I made. I also like to include roasted or smoked nuts (in this case some smoky almonds), some sort of dried fruit (cherries), and olives bathed in zesty herbs and spices.
So here we have pungent aged cheeses, savory salty meats, fresh sweet and tart fruit as well as the concentrated depth of dried fruit. Meaty mushrooms full of umami flavor, pan seared bread, an assortment of crackers, briny olives, even some tartness from the dried cara cara slices. I love to have an array of texture and flavor in my charcuterie spreads along with a little something for everyone. The only thing missing at this point are some wine infused condiments to complement the wine and ingredients further.
I made a simple but insanely flavorful cabernet balsamic vinegar reduction, along with a bold strawberry, basil, black pepper cabernet preserves. Either of which was perfect to top any number of cheese, meat, fruit, and cracker combinations! The preserves have an herbal and peppery kick as well as a bold richness from the wine. And the balsamic is sharp, slightly sweet, and full of flavor! This is easily one of my best spreads yet! And whether you are a purist or a bit more lax in your approach I’d advise some planning, include plenty of flavors and textures, make sure you have a nice variety for guests to choose from, and most importantly, have fun with it!
What are your thoughts on wine pairings? How strict are you? Comment below!
Cabernet Balsamic Reduction
Makes about 1 cup
- 1 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup Austerity Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2 Tbsp. Honey, optional
- Combine ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat.
- Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until balsamic thickens and the mixture reduces by about half, about 10-12 minutes. Stirring occasionally. Be sure to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn or boil over.
- The balsamic will thicken as it cools; store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Strawberry Basil & Black Pepper Cabernet Preserves
Makes about 2 cups
- 4 cups (1 lb. 6 oz.) strawberries halved*
- 1 ¼ cups brown sugar
- 1/3 cup grated apple
- 2 Tbsp. minced basil
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 1 cup Austerity Cabernet Sauvignon
- ¾ tsp. freshly cracked black pepper**
*You can quarter, dice, or even puree the strawberries for a smoother texture.
**This lends a nice peppery kick to the preserves. You definitely want to use freshly cracked black pepper, I find that the pre-ground stuff can alter the flavor. If you’re not a fan of black pepper use ¼ tsp or omit entirely.
- Combine strawberries and sugar in a bowl and allow to sit a few hours or overnight. This will macerate the berries and help release their juices.
- Combine strawberry sugar mixture along with the remaining ingredients in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan.
- Simmer over medium low heat, stirring frequently, for about 35-40 minutes. Because I didn’t use pectin in this recipe it took longer to thicken to my liking.
- Carefully spoon hot preserves into a mason jar and allow to cool to room temp before refrigerating for up to a week.
Note: If you don’t plan on using right away, place preserves in a sterilized mason jar, before storing in the refrigerator for up to a month (unopened), or the freezer for 6-8 months.
Spring Inspired Charcuterie Spread
Ideas to pair with Austerity Cabernet Sauvignon
Aged white cheddar
Uncured rosemary ham
Dried Cara Cara Orange slices
Pan seared bread with olive oil