Wine and cheese are two great pairings in life. But with so many options, where do you start? As with food pairing, there are no “rules”. It really comes down to personal preference and matching wine and cheese to enhance the flavor/taste, not overpower the other.
Does the cheese enhance the taste of the wine? Does the wine enhance the taste of the cheese? If you agree, it’s a good pairing and if you don’t, try a different pairing!
If you are planning a wine and cheese party, it’s best to provide a variety of cheeses with different textures for comparison:
– Fresh /milder cheese (Mozzarella, Havarti)
– Soft cheese (Brie, Camembert)
– Semi hard cheese (Gouda, Gruyère)
– Hard / stronger cheese (Aged Gouda, Manchego)
The same with wine. Have a variety to taste and compare and provide wines some may not have tried:
– Sparkling (Prosecco, Cava )
– White (Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino)
– Red (Tempranillo, Zinfandel)
– Sweet (Riesling, Sauternes)
Though there are no rules, below are some approaches to pairing:
- Pairing wine & cheese from the same region is a good, “safe” start (Spanish Tempranillo with Manchego cheese)
- Identify dominate flavors of cheese & seek wines that share similar flavor profiles ( acid with acid)
- Identify dominate flavors of cheese & seek wines that share opposite flavor profiles ( salt with sweet)
- Determine wine list first & cheese will be dependent upon type of wine chosen
Once you determine your approach, below are some guidelines or suggestions:
Match Textures and/or Flavors
- Goat cheese ( acidity) pairs well with light acidic wines such as Sauvignon Blanc
- Brie (creamy/buttery) pairs well with a buttery wine such as Chardonnay
Pair White Wines with Light Cheeses
- Fresh / semi soft cheeses are lighter, has milder flavor and less salt which pairs well with delicate white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.
(If you prefer red wine with lighter cheese, Pinot Noir pairs well as it’s the lightest of the reds)
Pair Red Wines with Stronger Cheeses
- Intense red wines such as Bordeaux or Cabernet Sauvignon can handle stronger types of cheeses, such as aged gouda
- Spicy wines such as Zinfandel with smoked cheddar
(Exception: young red wines with high tannins are better with buttery/creamy cheese for balance)
Champagne /Sparkling Wine with Blue, Creamy and Salty Cheeses
- Yeasty, toasty qualities of sparkling wines balances with blue cheese
- Rich and creamy cheese contrasts with the bubbles
- Bubbles help diffuse salt in stronger cheeses (salt and sweet combo)
Hosting a party can be expensive so if you are planning your wine and cheese pairings ahead, assign each guest a bottle of wine or cheese pairing. I’m sure your guests will be happy to contribute for a fun evening with great friends!