The Gourmet Guide to Wine and Cheese Pairings
When it comes to wine and cheese pairings, a great place to start is by experimenting with your favorite wines and cheeses and letting your tastebuds lead the way.
Whether you're curating a cheese tasting for a DIY wine flight or to simply broaden your foodie horizons, there are plenty of ways to explore the classic combination of wine and cheese.
If you’d like some rules of thumb and a few of the best wine and cheese pairing suggestions, this gourmet guide will help you get started.
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Wine and Cheese Pairing Rules
As you begin, keep in mind a few wine and cheese pairing rules of thumb: explore contrasting flavors; match the intensity of the wine with the intensity of the cheese; and what grows together, goes together. Whether you're experimenting on your own or following along with a virtual wine and cheese tasting, sticking to these rules will help you decide what wine goes with what cheese on the fly and keep you from committing pairing faux pas.
Explore Contrasting Flavors
The goal of most food and wine pairing is to combine two distinct flavors into one delicious tasting experience. Contrasting flavors, when paired correctly, can play off one another and combine into the perfect pair. Fresh, creamy cheeses pair well with tangy types of wine like sauvignon blanc, while a sweet Moscato wine combines perfectly with a salty cheese like Italian Parmesan.
Bold Cheeses With Bold Wines
While contrasting flavors can create fantastic combinations, you never want one flavor to overpower the other. Pairing bold cheeses with bold wines gives each strong flavor a chance to shine. Try a full-bodied cabernet sauvignon with a strong cheese like aged sharp cheddar, or a fruity red wine with a flavorful Gruyere.
Light Cheese With Light Wines
On the other hand light, refreshing wines pair well with lighter, fresher cheeses. A lighter wine highlights the flavors of a more delicate cheese. Additionally, crisp wines cut through the creamier textures of some fresher cheeses.
What Grows Together, Goes Together
“Terroir” describes the environment in which wines grow. Soil and climate affects the flavors of the wine and the same idea can be applied to cheese. Wines and cheeses grown in the same region often pair beautifully. If you’re ever in doubt when creating wine and cheese pairings, remember “what grows together, goes together.”
10 Popular Wine and Cheese Pairings
1. Pinot Noir and Gruyère
The fruitiness of pinot noir is a perfect match for the nutty flavors of a firm cheese like Gruyère. These flavors match in intensity and character, creating a full-flavored, yet balanced, pinot noir food pairing.
2. Champagne and Brie
For a wine and cheese pairing that is both fresh and satisfying, try Champagne and brie. The contrasting flavors here work well together because the sharp acidity of the Champagne cuts through the fatty creaminess of the brie, creating a rich, satisfying experience.
3. Moscato d’Asti and Gorgonzola
If you’ve only ever paired a tangy blue cheese like Gorgonzola with a strong wine, it’s time to try it with a sweet wine like moscato d’asti. The fresh acidity of the moscato cleanses the mouth between bites of Gorgonzola without clashing with the cheese’s strong flavor.
4. Sauvignon Blanc and Goat Cheese
Because goat cheese is rather heavy, a bright wine like French sauvignon blanc balances the cheese for a delightful pairing. The citrus notes of the sauvignon blanc cut through the heavy cheese and highlight the nutty, herbal notes hiding in its creaminess. In general, creamy cheeses are one of the best cheeses for white wine because of the contrasting flavors.
5. Provence Rosé and Havarti
The mild, buttery flavor of havarti is a perfect pair for a crisp, light wine like Provence rosé. These contrasting flavors meld when you sip and snack to create a delightful tasting experience.
6. Riesling and Mozzarella
For another citrusy-creamy pair, try riesling with fresh mozzarella. A bright young riesling matches the freshness of mozzarella, while the fruitiness of the wine balances the creamines of the cheese without overpowering it. Keep riesling in your back pocket if you’re ever in a pairing pinch — cheese guru Tracey Shepos Cenami told Forbes it pairs best with the widest variety of cheeses.
7. Chianti Classico and Pecorino Toscano
Chianti Classico and Pecorino Toscano are a “grows together, goes together” pairing. The strong tannins of the Chianti stand strong with the hard saltiness of the Pecorino cheese, creating a bold and exciting pairing.
8. Madeira and Aged Cheddar
If you are searching for the best cheese with red wine, try a Madeira with aged cheddar. In an interview with Food & Wine, master sommelier Matt Stamp divulged that this is his favorite wine and cheese pairing. A full-bodied red like Madeira belongs with a cheese full of fat and flavor. Aged cheddar, with its sharp taste and rich fattiness, is a fitting pick.
9. French Chardonnay With Époisses de Bourgogne
Another “grows together, goes together” pairing, French chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France is a perfect pair for soft, pungent cheese like Époisses de Bourgogne. The strong fruity-yet-earthy notes in the wine harmonize with the somewhat musky flavor of the cheese to create a rich tasting experience.
10. Red Burgundy and Gouda
A bold red wine like a red Burgundy (pinot noir) brings out the flavor of a mild cheese like Gouda, enhancing the tasting experience of both components. Manchego and provolone are other mild cheeses that pair well with bold red or white wines.
Wine and cheese pairings are a fantastic way to explore new flavors and expand your tasting palate. When searching for the best cheese for a wine you’re serving, just remember that “what grows together, goes together” and to match the intensity of the flavors. Beyond those guidelines, let your tastebuds lead the way!
For even more insight into gourmet wine pairings, check out other experiences happening on Cozymeal.