October 8, 2021

How to Take Your Wine & Cheese Pairing to Another Level

By @thewineinformer

How can you not love cheese? There are cheeses for every palate! But do you know how to combine them with the right wine?

Cheese is something that has accompanied gastronomic culture for millennia! It is said that the first cheese was made about 18,000 years ago by Mesopotamians. According to an Arab legend, the birth of cheese was a random event, when a shepherd carrying milk across the desert transformed the milk into a yellow, grainy compound: the curd.

Cheese has an important place on our table and is present almost every day in my kitchen, as it represents a flagship of both Italian and French cuisine. You can’t avoid cheese in a Franco Italo house!

Fundamentals of Cheese

We all know that pairing the right glass of wine with food is a true art, and it is a topic that becomes even more interesting when it comes to wine and cheese. Many variables need to be taken into account:

  • type of milk
  • aging
  • fattiness
  • sapidity
  • the concentration and intensity of flavours

Finding the perfect cheese for your wine

Here are some general tips that can help you choose the right wine for your favourite cheese.

Easy and Cheesy

White wines rich in acidity are particularly suitable for pairing with cheeses, as they go flawlessly with the fattiness and the sweetness of lactose.

Fresh or Soft

In general, with fresh and soft cheeses, you can serve a young and zesty white wine with elegant fruits and white flowers aromas. You can also opt for a Charmat method sparkling wine (e.g. Prosecco). 

Mature and Seasoned

With more mature and seasoned cheeses, you can pick a classic/traditional method sparkling wine (e.g. Champagne) which, due to its more complex structure, manages to attenuate the flavour and fatness of the cheese.

Feeling Blue

If you are a blue cheese lover, there is no better combination than sweet / dessert wines: a dream contrast! Perfect at the end of a romantic dinner to finish in a great mood.

The Tricky Combo

Beware of red wines! If you are a red wine lover, finding harmony between cheese and red wine can be tricky! Red wines can be rich in tannins, and they can create a feeling of dehydration in the oral cavity (called astringency). When a wine rich in tannins meets a food rich in lactose, such as cheese, the sensation of astringency and dryness is accentuated, and a metallic and bitter aftertaste can be perceived in the mouth.

For these reasons, it is good to choose a red wine with fragrant fresh red fruit, high acidity and little tannin.

The Wine Hacker’s Favourite Combinations

For White Wine Lovers: Pecorino and Chardonnay

Aged or young pecorino (goat) cheese goes well with a dry white wine with delicate fruity and nutty aromas. Suppose you like something more mineral and less creamy. In that case, you could also opt for a Chablis style (Chardonnay from the northernmost wine district of Burgundy in France), more aromatic, elegant, but equally structured and savoury.

My suggestion for this pairing

2020 Laterite Hills Chardonnay by McHenry Hohnen, Margaret River, Western Australia. You can find it here.

For Red Wine Lovers: Camembert and Pinot Noir

Camembert can be balanced by contrast with the soft tannins and lively acidity of juicy reds like Pinot Noir, Gamay or young Nebbiolo.

My suggestion for this pairing

2017 Pinot Noir by Below & Above, Pemberton, Western Australia. You can find it here.

For Sparkling Wine Lovers: Parmiggiano Reggiano and Classic method sparkling wine

Choose a fine bubble with persistent “perlage”: aromas of dried fruit accompanied by delicate notes of white flowers, toasted almonds and hazelnut, which go perfectly with Parmiggiano. The fatty sweetness of Parmesan goes well with the fresh creaminess of Chardonnay bubbles. Its pleasant sapidity and freshness are harmonized with an innate softness that recalls the delicate sensations of silk and meets the Parmesan for a unique taste pairing.

My suggestion for this pairing

2020 ‘Queen of Diamonds’ Blanc de Blancs Sparkling 100% Chardonnay by House of Cards, Yallingup, Western Australia. You can find it here.

For Rosé Wine Lovers: Burrata and Rosé

Burrata is a cheese that gives sensations of softness and creaminess. Therefore, it should be accompanied by a fresh, balanced, but still aromatic and persistent wine to coexist with its natural fatness—a wine with a remarkable taste but with a light, fresh and balanced body.

My suggestion for this pairing

2021 Rose’ Matario Grenache blend by Small Victories, Barossa Valley, South Australia. You can find it here.

For Dessert Wine Lovers: Blue Cheese and Dessert Wine

There are two main types of blue cheese: sweet, with a creamy and soft flavour; spicy, with a more decisive and strong flavour and usually a semi-hard texture. Gorgonzola or Roquefort, famous for its characteristic green moulds, is a raw, pasteurized, fatty milk cheese full of taste. The spicy notes of this cheese are particularly delicious with sweet wines, giving in the mouth the right balance of taste and harmony on the palate.

My suggestion for this pairing

2016 Noble Gewürztraminer by Henschke, Adelaide Hills, South Australia. You can find it here.

Even if it seems an unusual thing, the combination of a sweeter wine with cheese-like gorgonzola can be a winner. Let’s not forget that cheese generally goes well with sweet jams and honey or fruit like grapes and figs. Following this concept, in front of a gorgonzola, we can combine a sweet wine that enhances the creamy taste of the cheese without being too disruptive! 

Sara, The Wine Informer

You can find more from Sara through her website, The Wine Informer, and her Instagram, @thewineinformer.

Humans have been creating wine for thousands of years, so shouldn’t it be easier to understand? Well, that’s where The Wine Informer comes in. Sara, The Wine Informer explains wine and all its various forms in simple step-by-step terms to help you taste and discover the details. Throughout her blog, articles on the Cellr Blog and Instagram, Sara combines her passions of wine, storytelling, education, branding and marketing to bring you content that is both captivating and carefree to help you along your wine journey.

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