Does it matter what you drink with a cheese fondue, or what cheese is in the fondue itself? Many would say, absolutely not, but the Swiss would totally disagree on the cheese front. Let’s see what beverage would go with any sort of cheese, including Gruyere.
Much has been debated for years in Switzerland over the perfect beverage to accompany a fondue. Some insist white wine is a good option as the alcohol is supposed to break down the Gruyère cheese. Others say just tea – without milk or sugar – is appropriate.
Wine with fondue slows digestion
A group of researchers from Germany and Switzerland recently set out on a mission to find out which drink provided the better digestion of the fatty cheese. They did not however, delve into which wine was the better accompaniment to cheese.
The experts in this small study gave 20 healthy men and women (aged 23 – 58), a cheese fondue with either a Swiss white wine and kirsch or black tea.
The people who drank the black tea digested the fondue in around six hours, compared to nine hours for those who had the wine and kirsch. Experts found absolutely no difference at all in symptoms like nausea, heartburn or indigestion among the groups.
Mark Fox, a consultant gastroenterologist from the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, England who led the research said, “the findings apply to any high-calorie, high-fat meal, like traditional Christmas feasts”. And where alcohol is concerned, he added “fatty foods take longer to be broken down in the stomach compared to other foods and adding alcohol complicates the process”.
So now we know that a cup of black tea, containing tannins, is the better accompaniment, if it’s digestion that concerns us, but I’m sure most of us would still opt for that glass of wine – or two! In fact, if we choose a red wine rather than a white, we will get some of those valuable tannins.
Wine and cheese properties
Why does wine complement a fondue so well? We must look at the constituents of both. As we all know most cheeses contain good quantities of calcium and fat. A 30 gram (1 oz) portion of cheese could provide between 20 and 25 percent of ones daily recommended amount of calcium.
On the other hand, the properties of wine couldn’t be more different. The nutritional values of a 100 gram (3.5 oz) sample of red table wine are as follows:
- Energy – 355kJ (85 kcal)
- Carbohydrates – 2.6 grams
- Sugars – 0.6 grams
- Fat – 0.0 grams
- Protein – 0.1 grams
- Alcohol – 10.6 grams
Wine contains numerous types of acid, and most of these acids, especially tartaric acid, must assist to an extent in the breakdown of fats. But, as usual the alcohol in the wine hinders the process.
When it comes down to what beverage to drink with a cheese fondue, science would probably recommend a cup of tea, while most of us would like to throw caution to the wind and go for the wine – or the kirsch.
We have only touched on the beverage side of the matter. Undoubtedly, there are many different cheeses to use in the fondue apart from Gruyère. I reckon the sky’s the limit here, so choose what cheese you like the most, and match it up with a wine, kirsch or even tea. And don’t overdo the alcohol intake!