When I first began to drink and enjoy wine, my idea of the typical wine enthusiasts were Frazier and Niles Crane from the old television show “Frazier”—middle-aged, upper-class white guys standing around in wool suits, swirling glasses of overpriced French wine and trying to impress anyone within earshot with words like “bouquet” and “mouthfeel.”
In recent years, however, there has been an increasing chorus of voices encouraging wine drinkers to free themselves from the shackles of old-guard wine snobbery and simply drink what tastes good. In Chattanooga, Rosabelle Gorman and her staff at Brix Nouveau Wine & Cheese Bar are some of the leading voices in this movement to bring wine and cheese out of the stuffy, wood-paneled tasting rooms and, as Gorman puts it, “Create a place where people can explore wine at their own pace and at their own comfort level.”
The space Gorman has created is indeed comfortable and inviting. From the local art decorating the walls to the naturally aged stainless and reclaimed wood tabletops, Brix Nouveau is a visual expression of their casual, yet knowledgeable approach to wine and cheese. On my most recent visit, I was able to sit just inside the huge bay door that opens onto their large, dog-friendly patio and enjoy a pleasant cool breeze between sips and bites from their deceptively concise menu.
The menu at Brix Nouveau is specifically designed to encourage experimentation and exploration. While they have a large selection of wines to choose from if you are in the mood for something particular, the tasting flight menu is a low-risk and affordable way to try several varieties of quality wines.
“Tasting flight” is a phrase used to describe a selection of wines that have been chosen to familiarize the taster with a range of wine flavors, breadths and depths. Each of Brix Nouveau’s tasting flights offer three, three-ounce glasses of wine that progress from a lighter, often more fruit-forward wine to a heavier, often darker variety. If a wine from your flight inspires you to buy a full glass or bottle, then you receive 20 percent off the purchase from that flight.
Their very knowledgeable and attentive staff are enthusiastic and excited to help with any questions you have and can guide your choices to ensure you have a great experience. “We want to de-mystify wine and show people that taste is key. The tasting flights are an easy way for people to find a wine they like,”Gorman says.
Once you’ve decided on a tasting flight, the next step is choosing a cheese and meat plate to compliment your wines. You create your cheese plate from a well-rounded list of meats, cheeses and other accompaniments that are designed to give the taster a broad range of options to pair with their wine selection. For me, this is where Brix Nouveau’s concept shines and turns this wine bar into a taster’s paradise.
I opted for the basic platter and chose a nice raw sheepsmilk Manchego cheese, a Gouda with candied ginger and some Tartufo Salami with black truffle. To accompany the cheese and salami I selected their garlicky roasted tomatoes, dried Turkish figs and disks of 60-percent cacao chocolate. Each cheese plate also comes with an assortment of fresh Bluff View breads such as ciabatta, french or raisin walnut.
As I began pairing the various cheeses, breads, accompaniments and the salami, I became intrigued with the endless variety and dramatic differences in flavors that you could create through the various combinations of components. I particularly enjoyed the interplay of flavors between the creaminess of the Manchego and the headiness of the truffle in the Tartufo which provided a nice bridge flavor to the Tensley Syrah from my “Business Class Flight.”
Towards the end of the evening I found myself pairing the cacao chocolate with the darker and slightly peppery Petite Sirah before finishing off the last of those naturally sweet-roasted tomatoes. To finish, you can pair one of Brix Nouveau’s desserts, such as the beautifully layered Tiramisu, with a Porto Cruz Tawny Port wine whose hints of vanilla and caramel bridge very well to the flavors of the Tiramisu.
Whether you are a casual wine drinker or a self-professed wine snob, you’ll find a lot to love about Chattanooga’s only wine and cheese bar. I could easily visit Brix Nouveau every day and never have the same bite or same sip twice, which for an obsessive taster like me is a little slice of heaven right there on Cherokee Boulevard.