Cheese fondue is a complex – and delicious – Swiss delicacy. The perfect fondue requires the right mix of ingredients and preparation to get the rheology – the flow character – just right. Fondue is a colloid, a fluid containing a mixture of suspended insoluble particles.
The major components, rheologically speaking, are fat globules and casein proteins from the cheese, ethanol from the wine, and some added starch. Left on their own, the fat and casein tend to separate, something that’s sure to ruin the fondue. Adding the right amount of starch prevents that separation and keeps the fondue together. The viscosity of fondue is very important as well. If it’s too runny or too gummy, the mouthfeel will be wrong and it may not stick to the bread when dipped. Adding wine decreases the viscosity.
All in all, the quality and perception of a good fondue relies heavily on its rheological character. Without the right proportion of ingredients to set the perfect viscous and chemical character, the dish literally comes apart. (Image credit: Pixabay; research credit and submission: P. Bertsch et al.)