Finding the right bottle of wine to go with your meal shouldn’t be tricky, but being able to properly pair said bottle with a vast cheese course can be challenging, especially if you’re looking to marry each taste with each other. The good news though is that wine and cheese share quite a few similarities, the most obvious being that they both mature and gain flavour through aging. Furthermore, both cheese and wine require specific conditions and climates to properly flourish.
Before looking at useful red and white wines to pair with cheeses, a quick tip is to match cheese and wine by their acidity and overall power regarding the taster’s palate. If you’re not sure on a particular wine, be sure to pair any strong, tart wine with a sharp cheese – conversely, be sure to pair smoother wines with a creamier cheese that isn’t too overwhelming. This will help the flavour of the cheese shine through and not be overpowered by the wine, whilst allowing the aftertaste of said wine to gently cleanse your palate before each nibble.
If in doubt, take a small bite of cheese and a wine you plan on pairing it with and judge for yourself and swap wine/cheeses accordingly. It’s also useful to remember that if you’re serving wine throughout the dinner, be sure to choose a softer wine to accompany the starter and explore deeper, fuller wines throughout the meal (especially if you don’t plan on serving a fish course).
There are so many red wines available each with unique tastes that it can be confusing to find the perfect one – here, we’ll cover some of the more common reds that you’ll be able to find.
Cabernet Sauvignon is a favourite among wine-lovers, but finding the perfect cheese to pair it with can be tricky due to the Sauvignon’s symphony of intermingling flavours (and a rather strong aftertaste that can interfere with the flavour of the cheese). Firm cheeses that aren’t too strong or too mild go well with Cabernet Sauvignon (perhaps a slice of Comté or Taleggio).
If you plan on serving a Merlot, you’re free to choose more subtle cheeses as this wine (given how it’s now mass-produced) tends to have duller tones compared to a stronger local red wine, and the texture and taste of the cheese won’t be impaired – the simplest choice would be to serve a milky cheese, or perhaps a rind cheese which isn’t too strong, perhaps some Pont l’Eveque.
Finally, if you’re partial to the less tannic and fruitier tones of a Pinot Noir, again, a medium to strong cheese is preferable.
If you’re planning on serving some Champagne, keep in mind that you’re pretty much free to serve whichever cheese you choose. The carbonation of the wine helps wash away cheese that sticks to the palate and in doing so, prevents a strong aftertaste from lingering too long. Remember, if you plan on serving white and red wine during the cheese course, start with the white and work your way down to a deeper-flavoured red. For sparkling wines, rich, creamy cheeses go well and an ideal cheese would be the famous Camembert or a small portion of goat’s cheese.
Depending on its acidity, it’s up to you what cheese you would prefer to serve with Chardonnay – if the wine is slightly more acidic, opt for a more subtle cheese. If the Chardonnay leaves a softer impact on the palate, serve a tangier cheese.
If you’re a fan of Sauvignon Blanc, go for a smooth goat’s cheese that will complement the Sauvignon’s acidity. Another useful white wine with regards to the fact that it pairs well with most cheeses is white Pino Grigio.
Finally, if serving a white Bordeaux, a subtle, creamy cheese is the better option as the lighter tones of the wine will tame its underlying acidity whilst said acidity will break down any fatty texture the cheese may leave.
If you’re planning on serving a strong blue cheese (commonly a “dessert” cheese), opt for Moscato, or perhaps a glass of Port. Be sure to include cheeses such as Blue Stilton, some Roquefort, or perhaps some Bleu d’Auvergne, to finish the evening off with a strong yet enjoyable taste.