Cheestique’s Jill Erber shares four favorite pairings you need to try
Words and photos by Sabrina Medora, special to Edible DC
For over ten years, Alexandria native Jill Erber, owner of Cheesetique, has shared her passion of
all things cheese and wine with customers. So, it made perfect sense to ask Northern VA’s
First Lady of Cheese to share the basics of perfect pairings for National Wine and Cheese Day.
“At the simplest level, cheese is amazing. I find it fascinating that one product can be
transformed, almost magically, into thousands of different flavors, textures and colors.” Erber’s
face lights up when she speaks of cheese. “To me, the science behind cheese…it’s a miracle.”
Behind Erber is a cheese case that holds 250 local, national and international gems of the
cheese world. The Cheesetique store in Del Ray has the largest number of cheese offerings but
cheese and wine lovers can find a wide variety at all their locations—Del Ray, Ballston,
Shirlington and at the newest Cheestique, in Virginia’s Mosaic District.
Erber has dedicated the past 14 years to finding the best cheeses and wines from small
businesses and producers across the country. A graduate of University of Chicago, Erber
originally moved to northern Virginia to do software development but dreamed of running a
cheese and wine shop. From her launch with one small shop in Del Ray in 2004, Cheesetique
has grown into four locations that include restaurants, cheese shops and wine bars.
“The thing that shocks people the most is that there are so many cheeses in the world. What
we carry is just a tiny sampling.”
So how does Erber educate customers about cheese without overwhelming them?
“My number one rule is to ‘Keep It Simple’. If you have a cheese that you love and a wine that
you love, you will like the result. It doesn’t need to be complicated to be delicious.”
Erber has four perfect pairing rules, which follow the keep it simple principle:
1. A bloomy cheese (soft-ripened; think brie, camembert, triple cream) should always be
paired with a sparkling wine. When eating a bloomy cheese, your palate gets coated with the high fat content. The sparkling wine lends tones of acidity and bubbles to
cleanse and refresh.
2. A firmer cheese will always pair beautifully with a luscious red wine, especially one that
has gentle oaky tones. Remember though—wines that are too oaky will kill any flavors
3. Cheeses that are high in acidity or citrus, like goat cheese, pair well with crisper white
wines. Many believe Sauvignon Blanc to be a great pairing but sometimes those can be a
bit too tropical. A white burgundy serves better since it’s a chardonnay but with almost
no oak presence.
4. A bold, strong cheese like a blue cheese will have a salty intensity. Balance those intense
notes with the big, round, fortified flavors that Port lends. Port is a complex wine that
has sweet but layered flavors. Nothing beats a good salty-sweet combo!
Head on over to any Cheesetique location on Wednesday, July 25th , for National Cheese and
Wine Day. Sample some or all of the four perfect pairings boards ($20 each!) or make your own
with the help of Cheesetique’s trained cheese mongers. www.cheestique.com