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Food & Drink

Wine and fondue make for perfect 'melting pot' of friendship

Dave DeSimone
| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018, 1:33 a.m.
Cheese monger Adam “A.J.” Ehrlichman hand cuts aged French Comté and other Swiss and domestic cheeses for creating consistently creamy, yet nutty and savory, fondues.
Dave DeSimone
Cheese monger Adam “A.J.” Ehrlichman hand cuts aged French Comté and other Swiss and domestic cheeses for creating consistently creamy, yet nutty and savory, fondues.
French-born cheese monger Anaïs Saint-André Loughran of Chantal’s Specialty Cheese Shop has fond childhood memories of enjoying cheese fondues with her family.
French-born cheese monger Anaïs Saint-André Loughran of Chantal’s Specialty Cheese Shop has fond childhood memories of enjoying cheese fondues with her family.

My old friend and former American Wine Society President Alton Long often observed that no wine has any true value until you pull the cork and share the bottle. So true, and the same idea applies to fondues.

Fondue — which comes from the French verb fondre meaning “to melt” — brings together friends who put skewers of food to cook in hot liquids in a bubbling communal pot.

Whether the pot contains melted cheese, savory broth, hot oil or melted chocolate, sharing a delicious glass of wine or two enhances the pleasure, fun and camaraderie.

The tradition of cheese fondues originates in the French and Swiss Alps.

While growing up in France, local cheese monger Anaïs Saint-André Loughran of Chantal’s Specialty Cheese Shop in Bloomfield enjoyed fondues on family trips to the mountains. Family members typically dipped pieces of day-old baguettes in fondues made from pieces of various cheese odds and ends melted with white wine and garlic.

“There is no set recipe,” she says. “But adding a little kirsch brandy to the fondue really makes a big difference in the flavor.”

As a little girl, Saint-André Loughran also enjoyed the end of the fondue when her family scrambled eggs to deglaze the cheese sticking in the bottom of the pot. It creates a fun way to savor the last crispy bits of cheese.

Another local cheese monger, Pennsylvania Macaroni Co.’s Adam “A.J.” Ehrlichman recommends making fondue by shredding a combination of mountain cow’s milk cheeses such as semi-soft Swiss Emmental, aged Swiss Gruyere, aged French Comté and Swiss Appenzeller. He also enjoys blending in Consider Bardwell Farm’s “Rupert,” an aged Vermont cheese made from unpasteurized cow’s milk.

“I recommend choosing a blend to make a creamy, consistent fondue balancing both nutty and sharp flavors,” says Ehrlichman, who plans to host a free cheese fondue tasting in December. (Check the website pennmac.com/page/34/gourmet-cheeses-imported-cheeses-specialty-cheeses for details.)

While preparing your own cheese fondue melt, tune up the taste buds with winegrower Jacky Blot’s crisp and delicious sparkling wine, the N.V. La Taille aux Loups, Brut Tradition, Vin de France (Luxury 75557; $25.99). Using chenin blanc grapes grown organically in and around the Loire Valley’s Montlouis appellation, Blot ferments the wine in older oak barrels. Secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle for delightful frothiness, subtle creamy notes and a refreshing, yet elegant, dry finish. Highly Recommended.

With the cheese fondue itself, try the 2017 “Les Rocailles” Apremont, Vin de Savoie, France (Luxury 75557; $13.99). The wine comes from Jacquère grapes grown on steep, hillside vineyards in the French Alps. The wine ferments in stainless steel to capture delicate floral aromas and pure, refreshing apple and crisp citrus flavors. Zesty acidity creates a lovely counterpoint to the fondue’s rich creaminess. Highly Recommended.

Heating chicken stock, garlic cloves, a little soy sauce and a bay leaf makes a terrific fondue for cooking sliced vegetables. Pair it with the 2017 Elvio Tertino Langhe Arneis, Italy (Luxury 75575; $12.99), a well-made, crisp white perfect from the Italian Piedmont region. The Arneis grapes grow on clay and limestone soils to accentuate fresh acidity. Fermentation in stainless-steel tanks captures light fruity aromas of peaches and white flowers. Refreshing mineral flavors balance the wine’s creaminess through a bone-dry finish. Recommended .

Cooking pieces of lean meat in a fondue pot with hot oil calls for a fruity, robust and easy drinking red wine. Try the 2016 Domaine de Fontsainte, Corbières, France (Luxury 74882; $14.99). A consistently delicious classic from wine importer Kermit Lynch, the wine blends carignan, grenache noir and syrah grown in silica, clay and limestone on south-facing slopes. The vines enjoy plenty of sunshine, while the nearby Mediterranean Sea’s cool breezes lower nighttime temperatures to ensure slow, even ripening. The resulting wine offers a saturated ruby color with dark fruit flavors with meaty notes. Refreshing acidity and soft tannins balance nicely through the fruity, but dry, finish. Highly Recommended.

How could any sane person (other than somebody with cocoa allergies) resist dipping chunks of fresh fruit in a molten chocolate fondue? For the wine, try the fruity 2016 Fetzer Vineyards, Gewürztraminer, Monterey, California (7229; On Sale: $6.99). The wine comes from grapes grown organically in cool climate vineyards. This creates delightful fruitiness with aromas of pineapples, peaches and citrus. Crisp acidity balances nicely with the pleasingly sweet finish. Highly Recommended.

Dave DeSimone is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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