When we think of pairing wine with a food type, cheese will most likely be the first thing to pop into our mind. It is a classic pairing, but even so, it can be tricky to get it right. While there are no strict pairing rules as such, here are a few pairing methods to help you get started on finding the perfect partner for your favourite bottle.
The simplest and most important rule when looking to pair wine and cheese is to follow the like with like approach. Consider the core feature of each wine and cheese; if it’s a bold wine, drink it with a strong cheese, if it’s a delicate wine, enjoy a glass with something milder. You wouldn’t drink port with a chicken salad, so make sure you are considering how well matched the two seem on the most basic level. The last thing you want to do is overpower a wine with your cheese choice, or vice versa. There are a few ways to further choose which wines and cheeses to pair together:
Bold and Old
Few things that can adequately match the intensity of a high-tannin, bold red wine, but aged cheeses certainly make it on that list. The longer a cheese is aged the fattier and richer it becomes, making it an equal match for the bolder notes present in a bottle of red. The higher fat content in aged cheeses even helps to offset some of the more intense tannin notes, making for a truly enjoyable pairing experience. Either opt for a cheese such as Manchego, Gouda or Gruyère that has been aged for a minimum of one year, or a harder Parmesan-style bite, like Grana Padano or Pecorino.
Sweet and Stinky
While it may not seem the most obvious choice, sweet wines or dessert wines can work best with even the funkiest of cheeses. Matching a blue-veined block, such as Stilton, with a glass of Port is the best way to go as the flavours help to balance each other out. The sweetness of the wine helps to slightly mellow out any especially funky tastes, making it creamier, while the stinkiness of the cheese lessens any overly sweet notes in the wine. A truly perfect pairing!
Sparkling and Soft
Soft cheeses, like Brie and Camembert, have the tendency to stick around in your mouth for a while, with the creamy cheese stuck to your teeth and tongue. The bubbles and acidity levels in a sparkling wine can actually act as a palate cleanser, helping to refresh your taste buds and gain the full effect of both the wine and the cheese.
Location, Location, Location
Another way to pair wines and cheeses is to ignore some of the physical attributes and look to the geographical. Matching wines and cheeses from the same region can be a great way to go about things, especially when you’re trying to pair something a little unusual. This form of pairing can work due to the fact that the plant types, conditions and production techniques can be similar in the same region. Taking France as an example, Chèvre, or goats cheese, can work wonderfully with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Alternatively, if you’re picking a bottle of Spanish Garnacha wine off the wine rack then pair it with a Spanish cheese, like Manchego.
The Easy Way Out
If wine and cheese pairings are just too much stress, or you want to pick something up quickly without a lot of thought, then a nutty cheese is the one to go to. A cheese with hints of nuttiness, such as Edam or Gouda, will work well with pretty much all wine types, as they have just enough fat to balance out the tannins, but are delicate enough to even be complementary to a dry white.
Wines and cheeses can also be paired based on the alcohol content in the bottle. As a general rule, wines that are under 12% ABV will be lighter and less intense, making it a better choice for cheeses with subtler flavourings. On the other hand, wines over 14.5% ABV will be bolder, with an intense flavour, making them better matched for a stronger cheese.
What is your favourite wine and cheese pairing? Let us know in the comments below!