Wine and Cheese Pairing
Wine and cheese pairing can be a bit of an art, not unlike pairing food and wine. However, in a sense it is a bit simpler...after all, there is only one main ingredient in all cheese, milk, so how different could they be, right? Well, that may be an over simplification. Cheeses can vary tremendously in their style and flavors. But the good news is that many cheeses taste great with a number of different wine styles. There are no hard and fast rules. So like food and wine, pair cheese and wine that you like together and forget what anyone else tells you, including us!
That being said, there are a few general guidelines and tips that can help you learn more about which cheeses pair well with which wines. But again, as we have said before, explore and experiment. Find those combinations that you like the best and go with that. There are no absolutes in wine and cheese pairing.
Pair Like with Like
Like pairing food and wine, try first and foremost to align cheese and wine which have similar overall flavor intensity. Just like you wouldn't pair a delicate Viognier with a grilled steak, you don't want to pair a big, stinky, richly flavored cheese with a delicate and subtle wine. Try to pair simpler, lighter wines with more refined cheeses and only serve the fuller bodied, rich and meaty cheeses with hearty wines which can stand up to their outgoing personalities. So for example, an aromatic and crisp Loire Valley white wine like a Sancerre would go beautifully with a local goat's milk cheese. On the other hand, a seductive, meaty and earthy Burgundy may go beautifully with a stinky, mushroom and meat flavored pungent cheese like Epoisse.
Balance Acidity and Intensity
In terms of specific flavors, try to reach a level of balance in your mouth. In other words, if a wine you are drinking is very bright and acidic with a tangy feel (such as many sparkling wines), try to pair it with a cheese with has some creaminess and butteriness to balance out that acidity. Sparkling wines are great with triple cream cheeses which have a high butterfat content. If you paired them with a sharp, acidic cheese they may clash with too much acid intensity going on in your mouth. Likewise, rounder, lower acid wines can be nicely balanced by a nice sharp, hard cheese like sharp cheddar or aged Parmesan.
Pair Wines with Local Cheeses
Just like local cuisines which have grown up through the centuries with the wines produced nearby, most cheeses pair beautifully with the wines that are produced in the same region or nearby. While this isn't a fool-proof method, it almost always leads to classic, delicious pairings. For example, red Burgundy wines pair very well with the rich, meaty soft cheeses produced in Burgundy such as Epoisse. The chèvre from the Loire Valley are great with Sancerre and Vouvray. Find out what cheeses are indigenous to the regions your wine is from and try them out together, rarely will this lead you astray.
Sweet Wines with Salty, Creamy Cheeses
Just like cream and acid can balance themselves out together, salt and sweet have a nice way of balancing and complimenting each other on your palate. One of the all time classic wine and cheese pairing combinations is Port and Stilton
. The creamy, salty, pungent flavors of the blue cheese blend beautifully with the rich, sweet flavors of Port wines. Likewise, other dessert wines often go well with pungent, salty cheeses.
Good luck with your wine and cheese pairing! It can be a lot of fun to taste through several cheeses with wines to see which work and which don't. And it is even easier than tasting other foods with wines since you don't have to make the cheeses. Simply go to a good market and choose a few and sample them with a sip of a wine you like. Not much set up, cooking or clean up to have a great food and wine tasting experience!
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