Wine and Cheese
Five tips for a perfect pairing
Wine and cheese are a natural pairing that dates back hundreds of years in gastronomic history. The reason is simple chemistry: the astringent tannins and acidity in red wines bind with the creamy fat of the cheese, creating a palate-cleansing effect and unctuous mouthfeel. In whites, which lack strong tannins, the crisp acidity performs the same function. While there are no hard-and-fast rules to perfect wine and cheese pairings, some traditional guidelines exist to maximize the gustatory experience.
1. Pair according to intensity. Match light wines like Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Gamay Beaujolais with softer, creamy, un-aged cheeses like Brie, Havarti and Mozzarella, or with mild Cheddar or Colby Jack. More robust aged cheeses like sharp Cheddar, Gouda, Manchego and Parmesan can stand up to heartier, bolder reds like Cabernet, Malbec, Syrah/Shiraz and Rioja. Generally, tannic red wines pair better with hard cheeses, and acidic whites or light-bodied reds with softer, creamier cheeses.
2. Region rules — what grows together goes together. Since dairy animals graze in the same terroirs where grapevines grow, pairing indigenous wines and cheeses is a natural. So the subtle nuttiness of the famous goat cheese Crottin de Chavignol perfectly matches the bracing acidity and the mineral grassiness of Sancerre and Sauvignon Blanc, both from France’s Loire Valley.
3. Compare and contrast. Just as the creaminess of a Camembert or Stilton harmonizes with an oaky, buttery Napa Chardonnay, a salty Stilton or Roquefort contrasts with sweet wines like Port or Sauternes (rich dessert wines are a classic match for any blue cheese).
4. Pair sparkling with soft. The lively acidity and bubbles of Champagne, Cava or Prosecco easily cut through the butterfat of soft, bloomy-rind cheeses like Brie, Boursalt and double-and-triple-crêmes, pleasantly refreshing the palate. Sparkling wines can also counteract the high saltiness of Parmesan, Feta, and Pecorino Romano.
5. Fruit-driven wines like Zinfandel, Riesling and Rosé marry well with spicy cheeses like Pepper Jack and Jalapeno Cheddar. The same is true for sweeter wines like Moscato. But, in the end, the individual palate is all that matters. And if all else fails, Champagne and other sparklers can partner with almost any cheese!
Oenology 101: The Basics of All Things Wine
Archaeologists have dated human winemaking as far back as 6000 BC and cheese production even farther back.
When a wine’s tannins bind with the fatty proteins in cheese, the pairing create a pleasant sensation in the mouth (“mouthfeel”). All wines have tannins — the astringent, mouth-puckering compounds present in the stems, seeds and skins of grapes. They are most prevalent in bold red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah/Shiraz, and Malbec. White wines contain tannins, too, but at a far lower intensity.
Acidity in wine cuts through the rich fat of cheese, helping refresh the palate. Acidity refers to a wine’s tartness, causing a refreshing crispness in the mouth. All wines contain acidity, but whites exhibit more than reds. Some wines with higher levels of acidity are the whites Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Champagne, and the reds Gamay Beaujolais, Pino Noir and Italian Chiantis.
The old adage of pairing whites with fish and reds with meat reflects the same principle as matching wine with cheese: match a robust dish with a heavier wine and more delicate fare with a lighter wine.Edit Module