Perfect Wine & Cheese Pairings

14/05/2011 11:36

Everyone knows that cheese and wine are a match made in heaven. But if your knowledge of cheeses is limited to cheddars and your wine knowledge limited to Pinot Grigios, where do you begin? First off, there are two main ways to pair wine; by region and by taste. Pairing by region is often used because it is thought that what grows together, goes together! The “science” bit behind it is that the soil that grows the grapes to make the wine will be specific to the location it is in. This is then the same soil that grows the grass that the dairy cows from the region feed on.

When pairing wines by taste, there are some guidelines to consider but feel free to disagree, after all, taste will always be personal to the individual. Generally, the stronger the cheese you choose – stilton, brie etc – the sweeter the wine you pair it with should be. Dessert wines and fruity wines tend to go better with a wider range of cheeses where dry wines will most likely only match a few, select cheeses. White wines often match soft cheeses and sweet white wines will go well with pungent cheeses. Red wines are a better match with harder cheeses and milder flavours.

To help you get started, I have started a list of some of the most common cheese and wine pairings:

  •  Chardonnay and Gruyere
  •  Chianti and Mozzarella
  •  Cabernet Sauvignon and Camembert
  •  Shiraz and sharp Cheddar
  •  Champagne and Brie
  •  Riesling and Gouda
  •  Pinot Noir and Port Salut

Try experimenting with different cheeses: the most fun way of finding out which cheeses go with certain wines is to have your own tasting. By learning yourself, you will soon have a knack for knowing which types of cheese are most likely to complement the wines you have. When choosing your cheese, try heading to the cheese counter and ask which cheeses might match your wine or ask for similar varieties to cheeses you have had previously. The same goes at the wine counter. Ask your wine merchant for wines to match specific cheeses and see what you think.

Before any cheese and wine tasting or before serving at a dinner party, make sure that you take the cheese out of the fridge for maximum taste. For your wines, as a general rule, whites are best chilled and reds are best kept out of the fridge and left to air before consumption. However, a chilled red wine can be very refreshing especially in the summer. This might suit a nutty, light cheese such as Edam or Gouda.

Remember though, the most important thing is that you enjoy your wine and cheese, so if you prefer a strong cheese with a delicate white wine – have it anyway!*