The first fondue recipe was printed in Zurich in 1699 and was called "To cook cheese with wine." That, indeed, is the essence of fondue. Traditionally, fondue is melted Gruyére and Emmentaler cheeses, combined with white wine, kirsch (a dry brandy made from cherries), and corn starch to hold it all together. Cubes of bread (salami, pickles, and apples are also delicious) are speared on long forks and dipped into the communal pot. Fondue didn’t become popular as Switzerland’s national dish until the 1930s, when the Swiss Cheese Union began promoting it as a patriotic dish to increase cheese consumption in Switzerland. It became popular in the U.S. in the 1960s, and spin-offs like chocolate-fruit fondue and meat-oil fondue soon became popular.
Any dry white wine can be used in the cheese mixture (chenin blanc and riesling are some of our favorites), and there are many white wines, and even some reds (think light, like Beaujolais or Oregon pinot noir), that pair perfectly with this rich, creamy concoction. Swiss wines are difficult to find in the U.S., but many white wines from the countries surrounding Switzerland produce some great wines to pair. Dry Alsatian gewürztraminer, friulano from Italy’s Friuli-Venezie Giulia region, dry or off-dry German riesling, or Austria’s grüner veltliner are all great ways to off-set the rich creaminess of cheese fondue. Grab a fork and a glass and get melting!