Port and Chocolate or Cheese?

When I ask people what they pair with port, the first response is usually chocolate.  Deep, dark, silky and smooth, it’s wonderful with most all port.  But I have friends who don’t like chocolate and want something different.  So I set out to find something for offering up when chocolate gets a thumbs down at my house.

I had two Sacramento area ports to try: Revolution Wine’s St. Rey, a Ruby style and Wofford Acres Vineyard (WAV Wines) vintage style Port, both with 8% residual sugar.  Blue cheese is a classic pairing with port so I started there and picked up a Maytag blue, easy to find anywhere.  But I wanted something more than just cheese.  I happened upon a Shortbread recipe and thought it a great platform for additions, so add I did.

The WAV Port and shortbread were superb together.  The pairing wasn’t so great with Revolution’s St. Rey but it worked OK.  We brought out the chocolate (70% cocoa) and both wines worked but the St. Rey shined.

Knowing both had the same residual sugar, I contacted the wineries to ask about acidity.  (If I hadn’t known the sugar on both, I would have thought the St. Rey contained more.)  WAV’s port was .18 grams or.68 grams per 100 milliliters.  According to Craig Haarmeyer, winemaker for Revolution wines, the St. Rey does contain a fair amount of acidity but he did not run the final acidity numbers, thus not available.

Ascertainment?  A port that is lightly sweet with a fair amount of acidity works better with this type of savory shortbread.  And vise versa, the sweeter port with less acid works better with straight chocolate.

Both wines are easy to get so pick your favorite pairing, grab a bottle and enjoy.  And if you have a favorite port style wine and dessert pairing you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you.

Nutty Blue Cheese Shortbread (Yield: about 30 shortbread)

Ingredients:

1 cup blue cheese or gorgonzola, crumbled, room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ to 1 cup flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
2/3 cup toasted hazelnuts or almonds, finely chopped (if you don’t like nuts, it’s OK to leave them out)

Method:

In a food processor, combine crumbled blue cheese and butter; process until creamy.

Mix ¾ cup flour, cornstarch, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl. Add to blue cheese mixture, pulsing just to combine (until mixture resembles coarse meal).  Add nuts if using and process just until moist clumps form.

Transfer dough to a sheet of plastic wrap and work with your palm until dough holds together.  If dough feels too wet, add more flour a tablespoon at a time.

Shape dough into a log.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour, but may be refrigerated longer or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325° F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  When ready to bake, slice approximately 1/4-inch thick.  Bake shortbreads on center oven rack until light brown on the bottom, about 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool on racks.

NOTE: Shortbread can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

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