Pairing Cheese and Wine

Cheese and wine or even beer for that matter have a natural affinity for each other. Ideal pairings will have one or more of the following combinations: they may have similar weight such as a light bodied wine with a light bodied food, or a full bodied wine with a heavier meal.

Or they could have contrasting flavors, like a sweet wine with a salty cheese, a sweet sherry with salty Marcona almonds, or a citrusy Pinot Grigio with a creamy seafood pasta.

One other sure fire way to pair food and wine is look to the place of origin. For instance, chicken cordon bleu with Burgundy, Chianti with antipasto, Porto with Stilton, or Sake with sushi.

Champagne or any other bubbly that is near at hand would pair very nicely with most creamy cheeses. Brie, Camembert, Gruyere, Havarti, Manchego and Parmesan all work in concert with these creamy cheeses. These cow’s milk cheeses have a similar intensity of flavor and the bubblies refresh and cleanse the palate for the next bite of creamy wonderfulness.

A place of origin and similarity would be goat cheese, or Chevre, as the French would call it, with a Sauvignon Blanc from France. Goat cheese tends to be lower in fat, rich and tangy. It pairs very well with higher acid wines. Sauvignon Blanc leans towards herbaceousness and high acidity. Try a Sancerre, Touraine, Pouilly Fume or a White Bordeaux, all made from Sauvignon Blanc.

Chenin Blanc has both high acidity and lots of sugar. This attributes can be a benefit if you were to age this wine. Chenin Blanc has a range of styles from dry to dessert and a range of flavors from crisp green apple to stone fruits and honey.

Vouvray is a medium bodied wine from the Loire Valley and it’s a dream with a Swiss cow’s milk Gruyere, a nutty, slightly sweet and creamy cheese. Gruyere makes a great fondue. The creamy texture pairs well with this medium bodied wine.

Grenache is a red grape grown in the Rhone region of Franc e and all over Spain. It’s very fruity with blackberry sweetness and hints of black pepper. It’s the key grape in Chateauneuf du Pape. The bold flavors of this wine dance smoothly with smoked cheeses.

Zinfandel is another red grape with dark fruit flavors and spice. Zinfandel needs its pairing to be rich and/or big enough to balance its intense flavor profile. It needs a firm sharp cheddar with similar intensity of flavor. Try it with grilled cheddar cheese stuffed jalapenos which match the fruit and spiciness of the wine.

And now to the classic pairing of sweet Porto and salty, tangy blue cheese. Porto, the Portuguese fortified sweet wine is very, very good with blue, Gorgonzola, Roquefort and especially Stilton. This is a contrast that is sublime, the ultimate pairing of sweet and savory. Most blues are aged about sixty days which gives it time to develop its flavors.

Pairing wines with cheese is fun and educational! Remember to serve cheeses at room temperature.

Serve reds and dessert wine between 55 and 65 degrees; whites between 48 and 53 degrees and sparkling wines between 40 and 45 degrees. Proper serving temperatures insure the wines will show well and enhance your pairings. Fill the glass half-full to allow you to pick up all the heavenly aromas.

Enjoy and Savor!