Wine and Cheese Pairings – Common Sense Rules

Wine an Cheese Pairings

Pairings of Wine and Cheese

Intro
Wine and cheese pairings – it’s one of the most common food and wine questions and the best part is, it’s simple if you follow a few basic rules but it’s not quite as easy as throwing a few slices on a plate and popping a bottle of whatever you have laying around. When creating a wine and cheese pairing, just follow a few basic rules and you can have a perfect combination. Ignore them at your own risk however.

Basic Rules
1) Trust your taste buds…mildly flavored wines go with mildly flavored cheeses. Strongly flavored cheeses have a better chance of standing up to strongly flavored wines.

2) Avoid having lots of different types of cheeses. For example a plate with a couple of dry cheeses like Parmesan, firm cheeses like Cheddar or Provolone and the softer, creamier cheeses like Brie or Camembert are problematic. While its true that some of your wine and cheese will pair nicely, you’ll also create “flavor battles” where both the cheese and wine end up worse off than if they were lest by themselves. This is a good general rule to follow with wine and food pairings by the way. If you have lot’s of different flavor profiles, it’s very difficult to avoid creating some conflicts so try and stay within a single “family” of flavors.

3) Cheeses with softer flavors like Mozzarella and Jack go well with mildly flavored wines – probably not really a shock at all. There are a number of general wine and cheese pairing sites that try to categorize cheeses by how dry or creamy they are. Doh…guess what. Not all creamy cheeses are mild in flavor and there are a number of firmer cheeses that aren’t particularly strong – Jack for one. Trust your taste buds to know a mild cheese vs a strong one and the same with wine.

4) Avoid creamy cheeses with acidic wines. A wine with a heavy acidic component can react with the remaining cream in the cheese and change its texture in your mouth.

5) Remember that cold smoking cheeses adds a depth of flavor that can help it stand up to stronger wines if that is your preferences. If you like Gouda but want a stronger wine, try a smoked Gouda instead.

6) Only one type of cheese pairs well with sweeter wines and those are the veined cheeses (yes we know that’s mold but big deal – cheese is basically spoiled milk anyway). Neither Karen or I like green or blue cheeses. They taste like turpentine to me. My brother gave me Stilton cheese once and I am absolutely convinced that he was trying to kill me to knock down the number of potential heirs. True story by the way…I was in England a number of years ago and let’s just say that we visited more than our fair share of pubs. After getting back to our friend’s house about 2:00 am, they decided that opening a bottle of port to pair with Stilton cheese was a great idea (only after deciding that drunk dialing some mutual friends on the East Coast of the US was a good idea). Guess what. They were at a wedding, in the pews with the service going on…oops. Turn off your phone next time Mike! They claim to this day that I was mowing through the Stilton like it was going out of style. I’m dubious however because I would usually rather chew on sand than eat Stilton…hmm.

7) Sparkling wine (Champagne or drier Prosecco) with go well with creamier cheeses or those that have a slightly acidic flavor like goat cheeses.

8) Usually the biggest reds are best left off the pairing menus. I know it sucks for those of us who really like them but sometimes discretion is the better part of valor when it comes to red wine and food pairings. If you really determined to pair a big red wine with cheese, just make sure they you have a very strongly flavored cheese, preferably without a lot of creaminess.

Suggested Wine and Cheese Pairing Combinations
Yeah, I know we just got through saying that you need to trust your taste buds rather than rely on a number of poorly organized wine and cheese paring posts, but in the section below, we’ve tried to provide a little advice on some of the most common types of cheese and the types of wines that might go best with them.

Parmesan, Asiago, Romano (Very strong cheeses)
These are aged and have much of the moisture pressed out of them. Pound for pound these are some of the strongest cheeses flavors going. Sparking Wines work well with these as well as lighter, some what fruit forward reds like Barbera, or a Dolcetto. Even a lighter, fruit forward Merlot will work. If you are bound an determined to bring out a big red like a Cabernet Sauvignon, this is one of your chances.

Cheddar, Provolone and other stronger tasting cheeses that are usually aged
These cheeses are aged but have been allowed to retain some of the moisture content. However, a lot of wine and cheese pairing posts will put Jack in this category. Don’t believe it. Jack cheese is much milder. Try a Cabernet Franc or a Tempranillo. If you are bound and determined to bring in a big read like a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Petite Sirah, at least use a sharp or an extra sharp Cheddar.

Creamier softer Cheeses like Brie, Camembert
There are two ways to go with this one.  Conventional wisdom says go with stronger flavor reds here like Cabernets. However, if you prefer white wines, look for some milder creamy cheeses and go with the well rounded white wines. If you want something a little more refreshing, try an Albarino or off-dry Riesling. Sparking wines will also work well.  Avoid very dry Rieslings. They tend to be more acidic.

New Cheeses Like Mozzarella, Burrata, Feta
These light and mild cheeses need simple wines. Avoid those that are highly acidic. We recommend refreshing white wines like Pinot Grigio or an Albarino.

Veined Cheeses Like Gorgonzola, Cambozola, Roquefort, Stilton
Here is your chance to indulge your taste for Port. Late harvest wines with some residual sugar will also work here as well as some of the well made ice wines or French Sauternes.

Goat or Other Strongly Flavored “Exotic Cheeses
People seem to either love or hate goat cheese. There is not much in between. I fall strongly into the hate camp. To me, goat cheese is reminiscent of a teenager’s gym clothes that were left unwashed over a school holiday. I take it back… perhaps that is a little unfair to the gym clothes. However, there seems to be more fans of goat cheese than detractors so in the interest of fairness, we humbly offer these suggestions. Disclaimer however…I dislike goat cheese so much that I haven’t tried these. This is the product of research only, not personal tasted testing.  Try a Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc with Goat cheese (geez, I can’t believe I actually just recommended Sauv Blanc for anything). If you want to know why, click here for our Sauvignon Blanc Rant.

Well…there you have…Winery-Sage’s world of wine and cheese pairings. Give it a shot on a hot summer day for a light and easy meal. Get some freshly baked bread, a few cheeses and one of your favorite wines to accompany the meal. Find an outdoor spot to eat and enjoy.

Winery-Sage.com provides food and wine pairing advice for a number of wines. Click here to go to our general post and see what other Varietals for which we’ve suggested food pairings.

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