Milk and cookies. Peanut butter and Jelly. Beer and Brats. Han Solo and Chewbacca.
Some things just go together so naturally and harmoniously that it’s impossible to imagine one without the other. And all science fiction aside, there is nothing make-believe about one more venerable pairing--wine and cheese.
There are multiple reasons why wine and cheese compliment each other, but with access to many types of cheese and abundant wines, the permutation of pairings can be daunting. Let’s learn the basics of wine and cheese pairings, so you can create your own fantastic combinations.
Bold with Bold
Your rich, bold Napa Cabernet will be perfectly balanced with Gouda, cheddar or other aged hard cheeses. The same rule applies for Bordeaux, Merlots, Cab Francs, and Zinfandels. The high-fat content in these cheeses helps moderate the tannins. Along the same lines, Chianti’s traditional pairing with Parmesan, and big Rioja’s match with aged Manchego work because of the full-bodied texture of the wines and nutty mouthfeel of the cheese.
Subtle with Subtle
The opposite is also true—less intense wines work beautifully with more delicately-flavored cheeses. Sauvignon Blancs, Pinot Grigios, and un-oaked Chardonnays compliment goat cheese, feta, goat Brie, and Asiago. The brightness of these wines set the stage for the subtleties of the cheese. More oaked versions of Chardonnay and Viognier tend to go well with slightly more flavorful cow’s milk Brie and Gruyere. Together with the crisp acidity, the citrus and floral notes of these wines balance the slightly fuller flavors of the cheese.
Sweet with Aromatic (or “Stinky”)
Wines such as off-dry Rieslings, Moscato, Gewurztraminer, Vintage Port, and late harvest dessert wines with a much higher sugar content work well with aromatic--or “stinky”--cheeses. Sometimes overpowering on their own, washed-rind, Stilton, and other blue-veined cheeses are gracefully softened by sweeter wines. There’s a reason why the Port/Stilton and Sauternes/Roquefort pairings are considered classics!
Sparkling with Creamy (or any cheese!)
While wonderful as stand-alone aperitifs, your favorite bubbles assume a new exciting, identity when coupled with soft, creamy cheeses. Dry and off-dry Champagne, Cremant, Cava, and Prosecco usually have toasty citrus and apple flavors. Combined with their refreshing acidity and effervescence, they create a palate cleansing effect for creamy cheeses like Brie, Muenster, or Camembert. But don’t stop there—just as those characteristics make sparkling wines versatile with almost any food, they make them just as compatible with almost any cheese. So feel free to experiment with that sparkler!
Wine Assortment with Firm, Nutty Cheese
Finally, if you are serving a wide range of wines for a gathering, and are still wavering on your cheese display, choose firm, nutty cheeses such as Swiss, Jarlsberg, Emmental, and Gouda. These cheeses will have enough texture and fat to counterbalance tannins and boldness in red wines, but not overpower more delicate, brighter whites.
Armed with these pairing tips, why not throw a wine and cheese party? With a curated selection of imported and domestic cheeses, the well-trained cheese mongers at local favorite The Gourmet Shop can help put your newfound fromage fortitude to the test. How about an intimate wine and cheese pairing experience? Let me guide you through a private tasting at the newly-opened ViniCola Tasting Room and we can discover new combinations together.