Wine & Cheese Pairings For Beginners & 10 Of My Favorites!
Let's face it. We all like wine (I don't care who you are - if you say you don't, you're lying!) and we ALL like cheese! So why not combine them?
Wine and cheese pairings can be a match made in heaven or bitter enemies depending on how well they work together.
Since I'm all about making sure that your taste buds get the most out of each bite - whether it's wine, cheese, olives or whatever else tickles your fancy - I've put together this guide to help you keep things simple when matching wines with cheeses so your next party isn't a bust...
The Basics of Wine and Cheese Pairings
First, it's important to understand the basics behind why certain wines go well with certain cheeses.
There are a number of factors involved - texture, tannin levels, salt content... even the aftertaste has an effect!
The goal is to find two products that make each other taste better than they would alone.
Of course, "better" is subjective! Some people prefer cheeses that are mild tasting while others might enjoy bolder flavors.
The first thing to consider is the texture.
Soft, creamy cheeses pair well with fruity white wines while strong flavored blue cheese goes best with a big red wine.
Are you starting to see how this works? It's all about complementing or contrasting flavors!
Some people like their cheese and wine as separate entities while others might prefer them both in one bite - either way, there are options for everyone!
Tip #1: "Brillat-Savarin Triple Crème Brie is a great choice for pairing with sweet white wines."
Cheese texture is important because of the mouth feel part of your taste experience.
For example, if you're serving hard aged cheeses you're likely going to want to serve them alongside wines that are dry and full-bodied to balance out that intense flavor.
Got an extra sharp cheddar after dinner?
Make it extra special by enjoying it alongside a full-bodied red wine!
But please... don't "pair" any cheese with anything less than quality wine!
This isn't the place to use up those five dollar bottles you got as Christmas gifts last year or those few ounces left in your open bottle from Friday night - save those for cooking! I won't tell anyone though!
Tannin levels in wine help "cut" through the fat molecules in cheese, cleansing your palate to reveal the next flavor. In order to get a nice balance of flavors between your wine and cheese, look for wines that have higher tannins AND high acidity.
These wines will best compliment creamy cheeses that have lower fat content. Once you've found a few wines that work well with different types of cheeses - DO NOT serve them all at once! It's a matter of personal taste but I recommend a maximum of three wines per pairing session so you can discover each one's unique flavor without overloading your taste buds!
Tip #2: "One thing is certain: Goats' milk cheeses need to be paired with full-bodied red wine."
Remember that aftertaste part I mentioned earlier?
Well, here's why it matters! It takes a few seconds for your taste buds to "reset" after each bite you take.
By pairing a certain wine with a particular cheese you can actually affect the flavor of what is already in your mouth - and everyone wants to discover something totally unique when it comes to wine and cheese pairings, right?
Using this tactic try serving up different wines with the same type of cheese and notice how they all have subtle differences!
You'll find that each one brings out flavors the others don't, making them just as unique as the cheeses themselves!
Tip #3: "As long as it tastes good, who cares what anyone else thinks?"
This might be hard to swallow but pairing wines with cheeses isn't always about finding the perfect match.
That's not to say that you should fill your guests glasses with any old wine and throw anything you can find in the fridge onto a cheese platter - absolutely not.
This is meant to be fun! Explore the different possibilities and discover how certain wines change flavors in both cheese AND your mouth!
The best part of all this is that even if you get stuck pairing cheeses and wines together that make them both taste like armpit sweat (I've done it) at least everyone will be having such a good time they won't care!
I know I'm certainly not a wine and cheese pairing expert - I'm just a guy who likes to have fun trying!
Tip #4: "The best cheese and wine pairings usually come from those with similar flavor profiles."
In case you missed it earlier, let me go over the "tannin levels in wine" rule again! In order to get a nice balance of flavors between your wine and cheese, look for wines that have high tannins AND high acidity.
These wines will best compliment creamy cheeses that have lower fat content. Got it? Sweet! Now go have some fun experimenting with all the delicious combinations yourself!
Tip #5: "The idea is to discover something unique by mixing up different types of cheeses and wines, Not everyone can be an expert."
Below I'll go through some of my top recommendations for different types of wine and cheese pairings...
Cheese & Wine Pairing Tips: The Top 10 Cheese and Wine Pairings:
- Soft Cheeses: White Wines - Zinfandel Rosé Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir.
- Blue Cheeses: Red Wines - Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz/Syrah, Merlot, Petite Sirah.
- Mild Cheddar: White Wiesse - Chardonnay , Riesling, Chenin Blanc.
- Sharp Cheddar: Rose & Zinfandel Blends - Grenache/Garnacha blends from Spain or Italy work best with these cheeses as well as full bodied red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
- Medium Gouda: Chianti Classico , Barolo, Barbaresco .
- Creamy Brie: Ice Wine - For this pairing, you may want to consider desserts wines such as Port, Sauternes, Muscat , Late Harvest Riesling.
- Goat Cheese: Pinot Noir , Tempranillo, Grenache/Garnacha .
- Stinky Cheeses!: Ports - Vintage or Tawny Ports are especially good for this type of pairing. Some favorites include Taylor Fladgate 10 year tawny, Dow's 20 year tawny, Quinta do Noval Nacional 20 Year Old.
- Flavored Cheeses: Beaujolais Villages - These wines go well with almost any kind of cheese but they're particularly complementary to garlic & herb flavored cheeses such as Boursault, Gorgonzola Dolce and Danish Blue.
- Pungent Cheeses: Ice Wine – Most dessert wines pair well with cream cheese but Ice Wines take it to a whole new level!
Now that you've got the basics of pairing down, what about serving?
The rule of thumb is simple: if you're eating your wine and cheese separately then pick two different types of glasses - say an oversized white wine glass for the cheese followed by a smaller red wine glass for the wine.
However, if you're going to combine them into one bite then using a single glass will do just fine!
Cheese & Wine Pairing Tips: Serving Prosciutto-Wrapped Cheese:
This is a great appetizer that works well with almost any pairing of wine and cheese.
It's a simple idea that anyone can do at home! Just grab your favorite type of thinly sliced cheese from the deli, wrap it in some prosciutto, and serve it on a platter with a glass of your favorite wine.
Start out by choosing three different kinds of cheeses - one mild, one sharp/bold flavored, and one pungent - then pair them according to the guidelines above. This way you'll have variety without going overboard on too many bold flavors.
Once you've got everything ready all you need to do is set it on a tray or cutting board and serve with a bottle of wine!
The great thing about this pairing is that it's easier to do than ever because gourmet cheeses are becoming more and more popular.
This means you can find a huge variety in specialty cheese shops. Besides, there's no better excuse for trying new things!
Even if you screw up the taste combinations it's still going to be delicious... so why not give it a shot?
I could go on and on! The possibilities are endless.
So get out there and start exploring!
Now that we've got that settled lets open up bottle of wine! I'm thinking a nice red is in order for this post.
Maybe we'll let it breathe before we eat the first chunk of cheese to match it up with and see what happens!
I'm not sure if that's how everyone does things but hey, why mess up a good thing?