It’s no secret wine and cheese go together well, but with so many wines and cheeses out there, where does one begin when matching these up?
1. Creamy Cheeses
Best Matches: Aromatic whites, Sparkling, Chardonnay
WHY: Creamy cheeses require something to cut through the fat and no better wine than white, specifically ones with high acidity. Think racy Rieslings and crisp Sauvignon Blancs. It’s this contrast that creates balance and makes the pairing work.
If you’re wanting harmony rather than contrast, then Chardonnay is your wine. How often do we hear both this wine and cheese described as rich, creamy and buttery? Chardonnay (esp young) still has enough acidity to help cleanse the palate, but the nuances of tastes and smells bring this pairing added depth.
2. Aged Cheddar
Best Matches: Big red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon/Franc, Shiraz)
WHY: Big red wines are described as “big” because they have structure, and that structure comes from tannin.What is Tannin? Tannin is the drying sensation in your mouth after you’ve had a sip of red wine. If you’ve ever had black tea without milk you know the sensation. For the same reasons we add milk to tea, we eat cheese with our wine.
When tannin enters your mouth it looks for fat or protein to bind with. This is why we typically have meat or cheese with red wine. The tannins can bind to these elements, and it helps make the wine more enjoyable. Strong cheddars go well with red wine because of their high fat content. The density and aromas are strong enough to stand up to the wine and the salt can also help highlight the wines sweeter notes. If you were to have a big red wine with a mild cheese, the cheese would be lost.
3. Blue Cheese
Best Matches: Fortified and dessert wines.
WHY: This pairing is all about matching intensities, and in the case of dessert wine it’s all about opposites attracting. How many of us appreciate the combination of salty & sweet? These 2 polar opposites work by complementing each other. This is what happens when you pair blue cheese and sweet wine. I was never a fan of blue cheese until I tried this pairing. So give it a try, and you may be pleasantly surprised.
So that’s about it. The next time you throw a wine and cheese party I hope this offers some guidelines to build from, and that it helps to please any level of wine drinker that may be coming.