Fabulous Fondue

Recipes by Nancy Johnson

Wine Commentary by Gary Twining

Fondue is a great excuse for lingering over the holiday table late into the evening. The original slow food, it’s usually accompanied with side dishes for nibbling such as nuts, crudités with dip, shrimp with cocktail sauce or tiny meatballs in sweet and sour or marinara sauce. For an all-fondue dinner, begin with cheese, move on to beef and finish dinner with chocolate fondue.

Gary: The casual presentation of the communal fondue pot lends itself to friendship and leisure. Whether you are drinking some of the best wine in your cellar or fresh and younger wines that simply are pleasant to enjoy, consider the main component of the fondue and pair your wines accordingly.

Emmentaler and Gruyére Cheese Fondue

This is the classic cheese fondue, brought to America by the Swiss. Along with dry white wine, kirsch is the traditional spirit used, although cognac is a fine substitute. Experiment by adding chopped olives, slivered almonds, finely minced caramelized onions and garlic, sautéed scallions, bits of bacon or pimiento. Although traditionally served with bite-size chunks of crusty French bread for dipping, fruit and lightly blanched vegetables will also work.

8 oz Emmentaler cheese, grated

8 oz Gruyére cheese, grated

2 cups dry white wine

3 TBS kirsch

1 TBS cornstarch

Nutmeg or paprika, to taste

Crusty French or Italian bread, cut into bite-size chunks

In a small bowl, mix kirsch with cornstarch and set aside. In a separate bowl, mix cheeses together and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat white wine over medium heat until hot but not boiling. Add cheese mixture gradually, stirring to melt. When cheese is melted, remove from heat and stir in kirsch mixture. Season with nutmeg or paprika. Transfer to fondue pot and serve with bread and long forks for dipping. Serves 4.

Gary: These mild cheeses would suggest a crisp sparkling wine or almost any light white wine. Try some Swiss wines, if you can find them. A crisp Grüner Veltliner, dry Riesling, Pinot Gris or Gewurztraminer all should be quite lovely. A restrained Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre or Bordeaux with a light herbal note and elegance would also be an exceptional choice.

Beef Tenderloin Fondue

The secrets to a successful hot-oil fondue are to use an electric pot that can be safely brought to the appropriate temperature and to serve a variety of sauces for dipping. The fondue forks become very hot, so provide guests with extra utensils to remove the meat from the fork. The fondue pot should not be more than half-filled with oil; be sure to follow manufacturer’s instructions.

2 lb beef tenderloin, cut into bite-sized pieces

French bread

Chipotle Mayonnaise (recipe follows)

Ginger Soy Dipping Sauce (recipe follows)Lemon Parsley Butter (recipe follows)

In electric fondue pot, heat oil to 375 degrees. Cook one piece of beef per fork. Blot beef with paper towel before serving. Serve with a variety of sauces, dips, compound butters and crusty French bread. Serves 4.

Chipotle Mayonnaise

1 canned chipotle chile with adobe sauce, minced

1 garlic clove, crushed and minced

Pinch sea salt

1 cup good quality store-bought mayonnaise

1 TBS minced cilantro

In a bowl, mix chipotle chile, garlic, salt and mayonnaise. Garnish with cilantro.

Ginger Soy Dipping Sauce

1 cup soy sauce

2 tsp minced fresh ginger

1 clove garlic, crushed and minced

1 tsp toasted sesame oil

½ tsp sugar

1 scallion, sliced

In a bowl, mix all ingredients.

Lemon Parsley Butter

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

2 TBS minced fresh Italian parsley

1 tsp grated lemon zest

1 TBS fresh lemon juice

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients with a spatula. Scrape the butter into a ramekin or small serving bowl. Refrigerate until firm. Guests may melt the butter over the hot beef or spread it on the bread.

Gary: Though the focal point is the beef, the sauces could lend themselves to a different wine choice for each. With the Chipotle Mayonnaise, I would look for a soft red with moderate to good acidity, such as Garnacha or Tempranillo from Spain, a southern Rhône with its round flavors, a ripe Shiraz from Australia or Malbec from Argentina. For the Ginger Soy, I’d go with a youthful red such as a round Merlot; one of the mellower Italian reds without too much tannin, such as those from Tuscany that have recently begun to include international varietals; or a Washington red blend. The Lemon Parsley Butter is a flexible condiment, but I would suggest a recent vintage of Cabernet/Bordeaux, Malbec, Shiraz/Syrah, Dolcetto or Aglianico.

The Best Chocolate Fondue

The success of chocolate fondue depends largely on the quality of chocolate, so buy the best. While chocolate can be melted in the microwave, best results are obtained by using the old fashioned double boiler method. If serving with bananas, apples or pears, toss fruit with a few spoonfuls of lemon juice to prevent browning. Dessert fondue pots are smaller ceramic pots, heated with a candle.

¾ cup whipping cream (35% fat)

12 oz good quality chocolate, chopped

2 TBS Kahlua, Bailey’s, Amaretto or Grand Marnier

Cubes of angel food or pound cake, marshmallows, graham crackers, shortbread, fresh fruit, dried apricots, pineapple and mango.

In a double boiler over hot water, heat cream until warm. Add chocolate, stirring until melted. Remove from heat. Stir in liqueur. Transfer to dessert fondue pot. Serve with accompaniments. Serves 4.

Gary: Dessert wine is perfect for this course. Make sure that the wine is rich and sweet to stand up to the richness of the chocolate (lightly sweetened dark chocolate is preferred). Look to the Moscatos of Piedmont and Spain’s Montilla region. Any botrysized wine would be lovely, like a German Riesling at an Auslese-or-above level or a Sauternes/Barsac from Bordeaux. In cooler weather, break out those Portos, particularly old dated Tawnys, for a classic match.

No Comments Yet

Comments are closed


Our goal is to educate, in a reader-friendly fashion, and take the intimidation out of wine, beer and spirits in order to enhance its enjoyment.


to Our

Get the latest updates
and exclusive content.
Yes. I want to receive udpates