While there certainly are a few wine and cheese pairings that have stood the test of time, most of the fun that comes from pairing wines and cheeses is all in experimentation. With thousands of distinct wine varietals around the world, and an equally overwhelming number of unique cheeses, the options for pairings are seemingly endless. Feast your eyes on some of our favorite tips for curating your own wine and cheese tasting adventure:
Be Bold (but not too bold, depending on what you’re drinking)
One of the first rules in pairing wine and cheese is to make sure that the boldness or intensity of a cheese is not going to overpower your wine (or vice versa). Cheeses range on a spectrum from light and fresh all the way to very hard and aged, and the same holds true for wine. Pairing a fresh Mozzarella with your grandfather’s 1935 Cabernet Sauvignon, or matching a crisp Pinot Gris with a 5-year aged Cheddar would lead to equally unpalatable results. Instead, consider the age, body and intensity to find a pairing where both the wine and the cheese are on an equal ground.
Location, Location, Location
Wine and cheese are both ancient foods that have histories going back thousands of years. Both also rely heavily on their surroundings to create a distinct flavor in the finished product. Wine grapes are influenced by the type of soil they’re grown in and the amount of sunshine they receive (see: terroir). Meanwhile, an animal’s milk will vary based on the different plants that she’s eating and the type of water she’s drinking. In some areas of the world, (read: Europe) this notion of terroir is extremely prevalent in the making of these two products, and has led to some truly masterful regional pairings. Examples include fresh Loire Valley Chevre with a Chenin Blanc from the same region, Dry Jack cheese with California Chardonnay, or an aged Spanish Manchego with a Rioja (a personal fave).
Comparing vs. Contrasting
Look for qualities to compare or contrast between your wines and cheeses. For example, you might look for a rich, creamy Brie to pair with your buttery, creamy Chardonnay. This pairing uses one similar quality in both the wine and cheese to bridge the flavor gap. On the other hand, you can use interesting contrasts to pair wines and cheeses. Pairing a salty, funky blue cheese with a decadently sweet Ruby port is – just trust us – phenom. The sweet and salty flavors play off of one another like a salted caramel or a PB&J!
In-house Quick Tips
Fresh, acidic cheeses like Chevre, Quark, or Feta
Pair with: High-acid whites like Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, or Pinot Grigio
Milder, creamy cheeses like Mozzarella, Havarti, or Brie
Pair with: Fuller-bodied, creamy wines like a Viognier or Chardonnay
Alpine-style cheeses like Gruyere & Comte
Pair with: Fuller-bodied whites, or light, fruity reds like Pinot Noir or Gamay
Bolder cheeses like aged Cheddar or Gouda
Pair with: Bolder reds like Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec
Hard Italian cheeses like Parmesano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano
Pair with: Bold Italian reds like Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, or Aglianico
Pair with: Smoky and spicy Syrah and Shiraz
Pair with: Sweet dessert wines like Moscato or Ruby Port
When all else fails, sparkling wines like Prosecco, Cava, or Champagne pair well with nearly all types of cheese. The bubbles act as a palate cleanser for the whole spectrum of cheeses!
Cheers and enjoy!