WineGuyMike: Fondue For You and Chenin Blanc too


The Swiss are a smart and pragmatic lot.  Fondue is the national communal dish of Switzerland since the early 1930’s.  One of Switzerland’s great natural resources is their dairy products. The Swiss Cheese Union decided to run a promotional campaign advocating cheese consumption at home.  Could there be a better way to encourage an entire country to eat cheese than to create a pot of warm gooey goodness in the form of melted cheese?  From a practical standpoint this was a way to use leftover scraps of cheese and bread.  Did I mention that the Swiss were Smart too?  If there is a better example of a main course that brings family and friends together at a dinner table than Fondue I am hard pressed to think of it.

This delectable dish is enjoying resurgence, perhaps a symptom of a burdensome economy.  After all the modern day origins of this dish was a function of not wasting leftover bread and cheese.  Can you imagine a better comfort food than Fondue?

Switzerland is a melting pot of culture with 26 cantons and four different languages in this small country.  Fondue is defined as “melted” by the French with the first recipes dating back to the 18th century.  Modern fondue recipes vary throughout Switzerland depending completely on regional terroir and the type of cheeses that are produced and wines that are used.

Crusty bread is a must for Fondue and the cheese mustn’t be too runny, just thick enough to engulf the cube of bread.

During the 1950’s in New York a Swiss chef put a new spin on Fondue, chocolate and beef.  But when in Rome or in this case Switzerland do as the Swiss do, just say cheese.  Crusty bread is a must for Fondue and the cheese mustn’t be too runny, just thick enough to engulf the cube of bread.  There are a few rules that apply to Fondue as well; no salads allowed, but cured meats like those available at my favorite Italian Delicatessen Tagliare.  Cheryl Bregen owner of Tagliare offers the very finest selection of cured meats, cold cuts, and cheeses.  If you miss the Broadway Market and my dear Italian friend Alfredo Cipolato as much as I do Cheryl and her very competent staff do a wonderful job that I’m sure Alfredo would approve of.  I’m not sure if Cheryl sings opera though, that was sure a treat when you shopped at the Broadway Market.

Rule number two when eating Fondue; the wine used to make your pot of Fondue with should complement the dish but never leave a lasting impression.  This means using wine you would like to drink, not just plonk that you would use to cook with but not drink.  Finally rule number three; the Swiss only allow white wine or tea to be drunk at dinner with Fondue, they believe these are the two drinks that pair with the meal and also aid in the digestion of the cheese.  The last rule number four that the Swiss adhere to; if you lose your bread in the pot you’re buying a round of drinks for everyone at the table.  I like that rule, but I think they should have one that covers double dipping too.

Fondue is an Old World Dish and my favorite recipe is a blend of cheeses and an Old World Sparkling Wine from Spain, Cristalino Cava Extra Dry Brut.  It is very important to drink the right wine with your Fondue.

Just as Fondue is enjoying resurgence in popularity so is the Chenin Blanc grape varietal.  Chenin Blanc is a grape that is made in an Old World and New World style.  What’s the difference?

Chenin Blanc is a versatile grape. It is dry, very crisp, acidic, high in alcohol content, yet is smooth and a full bodied white wine.

Old World wines are made by design; the wine is a complement to food indigenous within the region.  Typically the wines are smooth and easy to drink and pair with the foods of the area so naturally.  Old World wines exude restraint, express subtle nuances of sense of place, are understated yet complex, and are sophisticated wines that present as simple.

New world wines are made to drink and are not made to complement foods from a given region.  New World wines pair well with food but have not been made with the same purpose or design as an Old World wine.  New World winemaking is driven by science and attention to terroir, or sense of place.  Many of the New World winemakers that I encounter today incorporate science with Old World winemaking technique and style.

Chenin Blanc is a versatile grape produced as a standalone varietal or as a blending grape in the Old World, typically with Chardonnay.  It is dry, very crisp, acidic, high in alcohol content, yet is smooth and a full bodied white wine.

Wines made from the Chenin Blanc grape are aromatic, floral, with intense notes of tropical fruits on the nose.  On the palate this grape delivers a wide spectrum of flavors and textures, experiencing citrus, lemongrass, spiciness, a little bit of honey, and lush tropical fruit.

This grape is commonly referred to as the “chameleon,” it is diverse and can be made in many styles.  In the Loire Valley of France Chenin Blanc is known as Vouvray.

The Loire Valley is well known not only for its wines but it also is the summer playground of the rich, famous and royalty.  The countryside of the Loire Valley is embellished with elegant and enormous chateaux.

While the Loire Valley is the largest white wine producing region in France, it is also the second largest producer of sparkling wine in France.  But what the region is truly famous for is Chenin Blanc.

Vouvray from the Loire Valley is offered in three different styles; dry which is known as (Sec), medium-dry or (Demi-Sec), sweet (Moelleux), or as a sparkling wine.  New World winemakers strive for dry Chenin Blanc wine that is crisp, intense, and floral.

Old World winemakers ferment their wines at higher temperatures and age their Chenin Blanc wines in acacia and chestnut barrels.   This Old World technique produces wines that are well rounded with a greater depth of color.   Winemakers from the New World use steel tanks for fermenting and aging.   This technique preserves crispiness, acidity, and fruitiness, all desirable attributes of a well made Chenin Blanc wine.

Chenin Blanc wine pairs perfectly with Fondue and I have two of my favorites that I’m sharing with you .  Visit my blog to see my favorite Fondue recipe.  Please enjoy this pairing of wine and Fondue.

From my table to yours,



Empowering a wine shopper with knowledge to buy great wine in a budget minded way.  Enjoy Life, Wine, and Food. WineGuyMike shares with you his straightforward and simple approach of the “how to buy” wine. Your feedback is WineGuyMIke’s evolution. To learn more about wine or read stories of influential wine and food personalities visit