by Gordon and Jean Leidner
Some things were made to go together. Take wine and cheese for instance. What makes them such a delectable pair? There is actually a scientific reason why these are often served together. It is the same reason oil goes with vinegar, sushi goes with ginger, and chips go with soda. It has to do with the pleasant mouthfeel we get when fatty foods (like cheese) are eaten with astringent foods (like wine). Who’d have thought? Most of us just know it’s delicious and that’s all that matters.
Despite the difference in mouthfeel, wine and cheese actually have a lot in common. Both are fermented, complex, and boast a rich history. Where the grapes are grown and how they are cultivated affect the flavor of wine. Similarly, where the animals live and what they eat will affect the flavor of cheese. Cheese can be made from the milk of different animals and wine can be made from different varieties of grapes. Wine and cheese has been enjoyed for centuries.
There are a dizzying number of wine and cheese pairing choices to be made. So how does one begin to choose? Fortunately, the work has been done for you.
Wine and Cheese Pairing General Guidelines
• White wines pair best with soft, mild cheeses.
• Red wines go nicely with hard, strong tasting cheeses.
• Sweet wines pair well with salty or pungent cheeses.
• Sparkling wines complement soft, buttery cheeses.
To make it even easier, let me recommend specific wines and cheeses for each of the categories above.
As most experts agree, white wines pair superbly with many types of cheeses. Try a crisp Sauvignon Blanc from Bogle or Cupcake Vineyards with a creamy goat cheese. Add a few Medjoohl dates and some plain crostini to the plate and you’ve got a party in the making.
Chaumes, a rich, full-bodied cheese hailing from southwestern France pairs well with a minimally-oaked Chardonnay. We recommend a Chardonnay from Chateau St. Michelle, a Washington state vineyard with a French flair.
It often works out great to pair wine and cheese from the same region. A classic example is a juicy Chianti Classico with an aged Parmesan-Reggiano. The fruitiness of the wine balances well with the nutty, slightly salty flavor of the cheese.
We are long-time lovers of Pinot Noir. Its earthiness and subtle fruitiness delight when paired with a tangy, hard cheese like Comte (known also as Gruyere de Comté). Cono Sur Vineyards make a quality Pinot Noir. One of our current favorites is an affordable Pinot Noir from La Crema Vineyards. We try to have a bottle tucked away in the cellar at all times.
Give sweet wines a salty cheese partner. It’s time to bring out the blues. Try a French Rouquefort or Stilton with a luxuriant Port. Note how heavenly the creamy, salty tang of the cheese mixes with the sweet caramel and raisin-hinted Port. Add a side of walnuts or pecans and your taste buds are in for a real treat!
Wine for dessert? Why not? Add some cheese for an unexpected twist on traditional dessert. Go for a sweet Sauternes and a bold Gorgonzola or an aged Gouda. Together, both the wine and the cheese gain in richness. This pairing is a wonderful way to end a dinner party.
Balance the tingly bubbles in sparkling wines with the smoothness of soft, buttery cheeses. The cream-puff of soft, buttery cheese has got to be Triple Creme. Its melt in your mouth decadence comes from the added cream which brings its butterfat content up to at least 75%. Don’t wait for the holidays to treat yourself! Pop the cork off the champagne and indulge!
Sparkling wines are easy to pair with a variety of cheeses. Try your favorite bubbly with Brie, Chevre, or Camembert. Just think bubbles and cream, and you can’t go wrong.
So, are you inspired to have a little fun with wine and cheese?
It’s a great way to get a few friends together without having to spend all day in the kitchen. To make it more fun, use the free downloadable VineSleuth Wine and Cheese Pairing Chart and track what you and your friends like as you experiment. Make it even easier and ask each guest or couple to bring a wine and cheese pair from each category.
Wine + Cheese + Friends = A Winning Trifecta!
Gordon and Jean Leidner have been wine enthusiasts for years. They enjoy visiting wineries, hosting wine parties, and have even dabbled in making wine from kits. Gordon has been a history buff for most of his life, and blogs at his website Great American History.