A perfect pair ... sort of
Matt Rubiner adds wine and craft beer to his store's offerings
GREAT BARRINGTON — Matt Rubiner, owner of Rubiner's Cheesemongers and Grocers on Main Street, doesn't believe wine and cheese can have the perfect marriage, despite popular opinion.
"I don't say that wine and cheese don't go together. They do, but just not as people imagine. They just don't go together as readily as one would expect," he said Tuesday at the store, where he recently was granted a liquor license last November. "Make sure the wine doesn't harm the cheese, and the cheese doesn't harm the wine."
And even then, if a perfect paring is found, it may never be created again, Rubiner warned. A wine or cheese from the same maker is different each season, vintage, wheel and bottle. There are too many variables in play to find that perfect match again.
So why, then, did Rubiner (who once wrote a column on this very page about the hidden traps of trying to pair cheese and wine) add a selection of wines and craft beers to his store?
"It was part of my vision when I opened the store almost 15 years ago [in May], and was part of the original plan," he said. "We have a license to serve wine in the cafe [rubi's coffee & sandwiches, located in the back of the building] and now, with a license to sell wine and beer in the store, people can try a glass of wine in the cafe and then purchase a bottle, if they like it."
He currently stocks 64 wines, with plans of adding only a few more. He has strong convictions about the wines he's selling — he has tasted each one. "The wines are made on a small scale by artisans who have respect for traditions, and how the grapes are grown and handled. There's a movement toward natural wines made with minimal intervention, using yeasts indigenous to the region and never filtered — and these wines," he said gesturing toward the shelves of wines, "must meet those criteria."
The wines he features are predominately French, Italian and American with a "scattering" of wine from Austria, Georgia, Slovenia and South America.
Rubiner said he is purposely keeping the price range fairly low and off the top end, with the prices ranging from $9 to $27. "I want people to buy wine for every day. It's great with food; it's great with cheese," he said. "I don't want people to think a high-priced wine is better. [The lower price] also brings wine to a broader, younger audience."
In the near future, Rubiner looks to offer wine tastings with wine masters and wine importers and a non-tasting seminar on "what do we mean by 'go together'" and the goal of achieving a perfect pairing, "where the wine retains its charm and the cheese retains its character, and the resulting taste is not entirely cheese or wine," he said. "It's just something that magically happens. You take two parts and turn them into a satisfying whole."
What does he suggest when pairing wine and cheese?
"Red wines are tougher to pair with cheeses, due to the tannins in the wine, which tend to be more pronounced — raspy, astringent. Cheese can rob a red wine of all its joy, " Rubiner said. "White wines are the better choice; they are served cold, and are more acidic, which cuts through the fat in the cheese." He added an off-sweet riesling makes a great pairing with cheese, and champagne goes good with everything.
"It's important not to think that hard about it. After one glass of wine, who cares?" Rubiner said. "Drink wines from a region with food and cheeses from that region. If they don't go together, who cares? If you're in Tuscany or Napa, you're going to drink and eat the wines and food from Tuscany or Napa."
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