I love cheese!! Almost everyone loves cheese! It’s a wonderful appetizer in so many forms and often is chosen because it is just SO EASY! All one needs to do is unwrap it, put it on a cheese board, and put out crackers and “Voila!” you can check that course off your list. It is just so very easy. . . . or is it? While it is true that cheese does pair well with wine, not all wines pair with all cheeses. Some basic knowledge will help you make these pairing so much more enjoyable.
White wine and cheese
Here are some classic pairings of white wine and cheese: Sauvignon Blanc, this includes Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume, and goat cheese (aged or fresh.) The acidity in the wine brings out the fresh taste of the cheese and diminishes the tart, tangy flavor. Chardonnay pairs exquisitely with brie, as it does with any food with a rich buttery taste and texture. Crisp, fruity whites, from Alsace or the Savoie region of France are a perfect match for fondue. For egg dishes that contain cheese, such as a quiche or an omelet, an unoaked Chardonnay or Pinot Blanc pair extremely well. Pinot Grigio and other dry Italian and Spanish white wines pair well with salads and antipasta with cheese. German Rieslings and dry wines from Alsace are good substitutes for Sauvignon Blanc with goats cheese or Feta. Sheeps’ milk cheeses, such as Manchego, are delightful with the Southern French blends of Roussanne, Marsanne and Voignier.
Avoid serving white wine with blue cheeses and aged cheeses, such as Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
On a side note, when serving white wines, all should be chilled before serving, but unoaked whites such as Sauvignon Blanc, Reislings and Pinot Grigio should be served very cold. Heavily oaked Chardonnays and more full-bodied whites, such as a French white Burgundy, are best served after being chilled for approximately an hour. Over chilling these wines diminishes their more nuanced flavors.
Rosé and cheese
Rosés pair much the same as most white wines with cheese. Dry, light roses from Provence, other southern regions in France and from northern Spain pair with the same cheeses as light, dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc. More full-bodied roses made from Malbec, Cabernet and Syrah pair with the same cheeses as light red wines.
Red wine and cheese
Be very careful serving red wine with cheese! If you choose the wrong one, the flavors are horrible together! On the other hand, with the right cheese, the flavors will surprise you. Shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano with a good Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot is a sublime pairing. Other classic pairings include Asiago, Pecorino, aged Gouda and aged Monterey Jack with Cabernet Sauvignon. Red wines also pair well with sheep’s milk cheeses, milder cheddars and provolone picante. Other red wines that pair well with these cheeses are aged Tempranillo-
based reds, such as Rioja Reserva, Grenache-based reds such as a Spanish Garnacha or a Rhône blend, and a fruity red, such as a Carmenère or a Chilean Merlot or Pinot Noir. Red wine is easier to serve with cooked cheese dishes if the dish includes some red wine friendly ingredients such as beef, lamb or mushrooms. Avoid serving red wine with exceedingly pungent cheeses such as Gorgonzola and Roquefort. The exception to this rule is that a Cabernet Sauvignon is wonderful with a steak or burger topped with melted blue cheese.
Champagne and cheese
Do not be afraid to serve Champagne with cheese! The bubbles and acidity in Champagne pair beautifully with foods with high fat content such as triple-crème brie or a brie with truffles. The “umami” flavor of the truffles are perfect with the biscuit flavor in a vintage Champagne. Other cheeses that pair nicely with Champagne are fresh goat’s milk cheese, Edam from Holland and Chaource from Champagne.
Sweet wine and cheese
Sweet wines are marvelous with cheese and are often served with a cheese course after a main course. Sauternes are beautiful with almost any cheese. Avoid serving fresh goats’ milk cheeses and delicately flavored cheeses with sweet wines. Blue cheeses such as Stilton, Fourme d’Ambert, Gorgonzola or Roquefort are phenomenal with Port, but are also lovely with other sweet red wines such as Banyuls or Maury.
Cheese pairings are like everything else having to do with wine, it is all a matter of taste and personal preference. Try some of these combinations that are new to you and see how you like them. Remember to drink what you love with the foods you love!
Written by Pat Daniel. Permission to publish by Columbus & the Valley Magazine.