A beginner's guide to cheese and wine pairing
There are few things that pair as well as cheese and wine, but that isn’t to say that every match is made to be. As with the majority of wine and food pairings, it is important to consider the acidity, sweetness, body and tannins of the beverage, so as to avoid conflicting flavours that could leave a bad taste in your mouth!
To help you get started, UK-based wine storage manufacturer, Wine Racks, has put together this no-nonsense beginner’s guide to pairing cheese with wine.
So-called because of the bloom of white rind around it, bloomy cheeses are rich, creamy and quite soft, some of which have a texture that makes them easily spreadable. Typical bloomy cheeses include Brie, Camembert, Taleggio and Robiola.
With its higher fat content, Brie has a buttery, gooey taste and texture. The acidity and body within Chardonnay, therefore, pairs best with this type of cheese. Other sparkling wines and Champagne also work well due to their acidity, as do Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Beaujolais and Pinot Noir wines.
If earthy, creamy Camembert is your cheese of choice, then you can more or less select similar wines to Brie, since the textures and tastes are quite comparable. You can also try a lovely Pinot Grigio or Chenin Blanc when pairing with Camembert.
Whether you love them or loathe them, it is undeniable that blue cheeses are full of distinct flavour. With veins of blue mould running through them, their texture is either creamy and soft, or semi-soft and crumbly. Whilst some types of blue cheese may be milder and sweeter, they mostly have a sharp taste. Common types include Stilton, Danish Blue, Gorgonzola, Roquefort and Cambozola.
A classic pairing, which is sure to wow any dinner party guest who is a fan of pungent blue cheese, is Stilton with Port. The thick sweetness of the Port helps to balance out the dense texture and distinct sharpness of Stilton.
Similarly, the strong, saltiness of Roquefort cheese offsets the sweetness of Sauternes wine, making this another match made in heaven.
Following an ageing process, hard cheeses tend to be firm and will crumble when broken. They normally have complex, nutty flavours, and are salty and pungent in taste. Hard cheeses can typically handle more tannic wines, so bear that in mind when putting together a cheese board.
A sharp cheddar, for instance, with its strong, bold flavours, will hold well against a savoury, full-bodied wine, like a Cabernet Sauvignon, without losing any of its unique tastes.
For parmesan, a great pairing can be found with prosecco, since the bubbles are able to cut through the saltiness of the cheese.
Other wines which pair well with hard cheeses include a Syrah or Shiraz, Rioja and Merlot.
Fresh cheese is made from cow, sheep or goats’ milk and is soft in texture, with no outside rind. This type of cheese has not usually been aged and tends to be mild in flavour, often with a slight tang. Fresh cheeses include goats’ cheese, Feta, and Italian Mozzarella and Burrata.
Since goats’ cheese is creamy and very distinct in flavour, a crisp, dry white wine, like Sauvignon Blanc, is a great match. Tangy, salty feta also matches very well with this wine.
A staple on many antipasti plates – the stringy, melty Mozzarella is best consumed quickly after it is produced. Its mild, slightly sweeter taste means it pairs nicely with a versatile, acidic white, like Pinot Grigio.
General pairing guidelines
Each and every one of us has a different palette, which means that what one person finds to be their perfect match, another may wholly dislike. As such, don’t be afraid to experiment when it comes to cheese and wine pairings - there are certainly worse things to be testing out!
That being said, beginners should follow some general rules to help them in their quest to find their favourite pairing:
- Wines and cheeses should match in intensity – ie, a full-bodied wine with strong cheese, and lighter wine with milder cheese. One flavour should not dominate the other, as this does not make for a particularly pleasant taste experience.
- When in doubt, it is generally safe to pair cheeses and wines from the same regions. For instance, if you have a gorgeous parmesan, you can pair that with an Italian Chianti or a bottle of Prosecco.
- The best pairings have the ability to draw out contrasts in the different flavours. For example, a soft, creamy brie matches well with an acidic chardonnay. Likewise, hard cheeses pair nicely with tannic wines, as do saltier cheeses with sweeter wines.
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