Cheese Pairings

Wine and cheese are two of my culinary pleasures, and finding a good match can be a delicious endeavor. As with any wine and food pairing, there are a number of considerations such as texture, acidity, fat and tannin.

The first thing to decide is whether you want to give the starring role to the wine or to the cheese. If it’s the cheese, pick a wine with less character that will complement it. If you want the wine to be the star, select a cheese with less forcefulness.

Cheeses can be divided into six categories:

Fresh Cheese

These are soft rindless cheeses that are made with cow, goat or sheep milk. They’re not aged and have a mild, slightly tangy flavour.  Cheeses considered in this category include:

  • Mozzarella
  • Burrata
  • Chèvre (goat)
  • Feta
  • Ricotta
  • Mascarpone
  • Stracchino
  • Boursin
  • Very young Selles sur Cher

Wine pairings with fresh cheeses include:

  • Crisp, dry and young white wines such as:
    • Albariño Soave
    • Pinot Blanc
    • Muscadet
    • Vermentino
    • Verdejo
    • Arneis
    • Sauvignon Blanc
    • Young Chardonnay
  • For salty cheeses like Feta, off-dry whites such as:
    • Gewürztraminer
    • Riesling
  • Very young, fruity, unoaked red wines such as:
    • Loire
    • Cabernet Franc
    • Pinot Noir
    • Gamay
    • Valpolicella
  • Crisp, dry rosé.

Bloomy Cheese

These cheeses are named for the bloom of white mold that they are contained within. They tend to be the richest and creamiest type of cheese, with a soft, spreadable texture. The rind is edible, and it has a stronger flavour than the inside.

Bloomy cheeses include:

  • Brie
  • Camembert
  • Robiola
  • Chaource
  • Coeur du Neufchatel
  • Crottin de Chavignol (goat)

Wine pairings with fresh cheeses include:

  • A variety of white wines including:
    • Dry, traditional-method sparkling wines
    • Light-bodied, dry, unoaked Chardonnay (Chablis)
    • Dry, light-bodied Sauvignon Blanc (Sancerre)
    • Dry young Riesling
    • Dry Chenin Blanc (Vouvray)
    • Grüner Veltliner
    • Semillon or white Rhône varieties such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc
  • Dry and light-bodied red wines that are young, fruity and unoaked such as:
    • Pinot Noir
    • Dolcetto
    • Barbera
    • Gamay
    • Cabernet Franc

Washed Rind Cheese

These are cheeses that are soaked in brine, beer or wine that produce an orange rind. They are rich and creamy, and will be of soft or semi-soft texture.

Examples of washed rind cheese include:

  • Fontina
  • Epoisses
  • Reblochon
  • Taleggio
  • Langres
  • Chaume
  • Livarot
  • Munster
  • Vacherin de Mont d’Or

Wines that compliment washed rind cheese include:

  • White wines such as:
    • Dry, traditional-method sparkling wines
    • Dry and off-dry, unoaked white wines like:
      • Gewürztraminer
      • Pinot Gris
      • Chenin Blanc
    • Dry, structured whites such a:,
      • Marsanne
      • Roussanne
      • Semillon
      • Riesling
  • Red wines such as:
    • Beaujolais Villages
    • Pinot Noir
    • Poulsard
    • Trousseau

Semi-Soft Cheese

Semi-soft cheeses are not spreadable nor do they break in shards like a hard cheese. They tend to be creamy with a fairly mild flavour. Many are excellent to melt and perfect to slice. Some cheeses like Gouda are semi-soft in younger styles, while when aged, their texture turns hard.

Included in this category are such cheeses as:

  • Gruyère
  • Gouda
  • Havarti

Wine pairings include:

  • Slightly oaked white wines such as:
    • Chardonnay
    • Pinot Gris
    • Rioja
  • Gently oaked red wines such as:
    • Côtes de Rhône
    • Corbières
    • St-Chinian
    • Chianti
    • Mencía
    • Young Bordeaux blends

Hard Cheese

These cheeses are aged and are quite firm and crumbles or breaks into shards. They tend to have nutty and complex flavours. Some are fairly pungent and salty.

Cheeses included in this category are:

  • Cheddar
  • Double Gloucester
  • Parmesan
  • Pecorino
  • Manchego
  • Grana Padano
  • Beaufort
  • Cantal
  • Emmenthal
  • Sbrinz
  • Comté

Wine pairings for hard cheese include:

  • White wines such as:
    • Vintage traditional-method sparkling wines
    • Amontillado Sherry
    • Palo Cortado Sherry
  • Red wine pairings include bold wines with some age:
    • Nebbiol0
    • Sangiovese
    • Aglianico
    • Rioja
    • Bordeaux blends from cooler climates

Blue Cheese

Veins of blue mold run through these cheeses. They can be soft and creamy, or semi-soft and crumbly. Some are sweeter and milder, but all contain a fair amount of sharpness and tang.

Blue cheese varieties include”

  • Cambozola
  • Danish Blue
  • Gorgonzola
  • Roquefort
  • Stilton
  • Fourme d’Ambert
  • Bleu d’Auvergne
  • Cabrales

Wine pairings to coincide with blue cheese include:

  • White wines such as:
    • Noble Rot sweet wines like:
      • Sauternes
      • Barsac
      • Monbazillac
      • Riesling Beerenauslese
      • Trockenbeerenauslese
      • Quarts de Chaume
    • Dessert wines from dried grapes:
      • Vin Santo
      • Jurançon
      • Recioto de Soave
    • Late-harvest wines:
      • Riesling Spätlese
      • Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives
  • Sweet fortified red wines such as:
    • Vintage Port
    • LBV Port
    • Maury
    • Banyuls

If all of this is too mind boggling and you want just one wine to match any cheese the experts suggest choosing one of either Amontillado Sherry, Rivesaltes, tawny Port or Madeira. They complement any cheese as they are not too delicately flavoured.  All of these wines are considered to be crowd-pleasers.

Sláinte mhaith

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