Wine and Cheese - Cheese Guide

June 12, 2019 | By Dave Mattingly

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Wine and Cheese have a long history of accompanying each other. The French refer to wine, cheese and bread as the Holy Trinity of Food. This title is deserving because all three share an ancient lineage, all three are mentioned numerous times in the Bible, and all three taste great together. In ancient times, Wine and Cheese pairings developed naturally as people discovered their complementary properties. As food science developed, it became known that cheese makes the wine more palatable primarily because the high-fat content in cheese coats the back of palate when you swallow. It just so happens that the taste receptors for "bitter" reside on the back of the tongue, and with them coated with cheese, the wine tastes sweeter and fruiter.

Wine and Cheese have a lot in common, other than the fact that they pair so well together. These two foods both reach their maturation and peak flavor through a period of aging. The crafting of Wine and Cheese requires careful tending by a skilled artisan. Both flourish in specific climates and geographical conditions. Ancient cheesemaking and winemaking traditions continue today, almost exactly the same as when they were first developed hundreds of years ago.

Wine and Cheese Pairing Guidelines
There are only two strict rules for pairing Wine and Cheese. The first rule is to match acidity. Tart wines should pair with sharper cheeses and mellow wines should pair with creamier cheeses. The second rule is to match power. Do not let a strong wine overpower a mild cheese, or vice versa. One additional tip, albeit not a rule, is to create a wine and cheese pairing by selecting products from the same region of the world. This brings in the element of terroir, which describes how foods get their qualities from the earth and the climate, and that a wine and a cheese from the same region should share complementary properties.

Other than the above, the best way to execute a pairing is to discover it by trial and error. In preparation, open a bottle of wine and set out four varied cheeses, allowing each to come to room temperature. To begin, take a sip of wine with a clean palate, that is, before eating any cheese. Then take a bite of cheese and make note of how you think it goes with the wine. Then take another sip of wine to see how it tastes after swallowing the cheese. Take written notes and proceed through the other cheeses, cleaning the palate each time by eating an unsalted cracker or piece of bread. Bearing in mind that palates vary from person to person, you are now on your way to becoming an expert at how YOU like to pair wine and cheese.

While traditionally it has been put forth that white wines pair better with soft cheeses and red wine pairs better with hard cheeses, this rule has become outdated. Most cheeses, especially after some aging, have some sharp flavors, indicating that tart white wines should generally pair better with cheeses than would less acidic red wines. Soft, creamy, pungent cheeses like Taleggio or Limburger actually pair best with beer, but also go nicely with sweeter wines like Riesling. Medium-aged, hard cheeses tend to pair well with full-bodied red wines. Champagne and other sparkling wines pair well with double and triple creme cheeses, as the bubbles help cut through the thick layer these cheeses put down on the palate. With a nod to the notion that "opposites attract", salty blue cheeses pair particularly well with sweet dessert wines like Port and Sauternes.

Red Wine and Cheese Pairing Guide
Please bear in mind that these recommendations are rather general, given that there is a tremendous spectrum of flavors and other qualities within the available wines of a certain varietal.

Cheeses That Pair With Cabernet Sauvignon Wine
Cabernet Sauvignon is not the most cheese-friendly wine, as its deep, complex flavors often clash with the lactic qualities of cheese and its long finish can interfere with enjoying your next bite. Cabernet Sauvignon does pair very well with salami and pairs reasonably well with medium-bodied, firm-textured cow's milk cheeses like Swiss Gruyere, Comté, and Beemster Classic. We also find that Taleggio, an aromatic washed-rind cheese from Northern Italy, also makes for a decent Cabernet Sauvignon pairing.

Cheeses That Pair With Chianti and Sangiovese Wine
Sangiovese might be Italy's best-known grape, as it is the basis for Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and many wines referred to as "Super Tuscan". Sangiovese wines offer good acidity, substantial tannins, rich fruitiness and herbal aromas. It should be no surprise that Sangiovese wines pair well with red pasta dishes. Cheeses that pair with Sangiovese wine include Aged Pecorino Toscano, Grana Padano Stravecchio and Aged Asiago.

Cheeses That Pair With Malbec Wine
The most popular Malbec wines come from Argentina. If you are not familiar with this varietal, Malbec wine is quite food friendly, similar to Merlot, but perhaps a tad earthier. Malbec is a medium-bodied to full-bodied red wine with bold plum and berry flavors accented by notes of chocolate. We like to pair Malbec with spiced cheeses like Malagon with Rosemary or an aged cheese like Manchego Reserve.

Cheeses That Pair With Merlot Wine
Merlot is famous for being one of the main components in Bordeaux wine blends. By itself, the quality of Merlot wine varies more than perhaps any other single varietal. Mass produced Merlot can be dull and leave you feeling uninspired, while a fine handcrafted Merlot can rival any other top red wine. Generally, Merlot wine is less tannic than Cabernet Sauvignon, making it more food friendly. We particularly like to pair Merlot wine with Basque sheep's milk cheeses like Istara, Alpine cow's milk cheeses like medium-bodied washed rind cheeses like Pont l'Eveque.

Cheeses That Pair With Pinot Noir Wine
Pinot Noir is the primary grape used to make French Burgundy wines. With its low tannins, berry flavors and floral aromas, Pinot Noir is relatively food friendly and naturally pairs with medium-sharp cow's milk cheeses like Cantal, or a lively sheep's milk cheese like ReNero Pecorino Stagionato.


Cheeses That Pair With Zinfandel Wine
Zinfandel is often called the "American grape" because of its long history of being grown in California. Quite bold in character, it needs a similarly forceful cheese to stand up to it. We like to pair Zinfandel with artisan American cheeses like Dorset by Consider Bardwell or zesty American blue cheeses like those from Rogue Creamery whose slightly salty character provide a nice contrast to the sweet jammy qualities of Zinfandel.

White Wine and Cheese Pairing Guide
Again, please bear in mind that these recommendations are rather general, given that there is a tremendous spectrum of flavors and other qualities within the available wines of a certain varietal.

Cheeses That Pair With Champagne and Sparkling Wine
Sparkling wine is perhaps the easiest type of wine to pair with cheese, as its carbonation helps break down the coating of butterfat that cheese leaves on the palate, reducing clashes and leaving a clean taste in the mouth. Many sparkling wines have just the right levels of acidity and sweetness to pair with rich, buttery triple-cremes, fresh chevres, lightly aged pressed varieties and white bloomy rind cheeses. Our most popular cheeses that pair perfectly with Champagne include Camembert, Chaource, and Buche de Chevre.

Cheeses That Pair With Chardonnay Wine
When it comes to pairing cheeses with Chardonnay, a highly acidic wine, we find big differences between oaky barrel-fermented Chardonnay and unoaked stainless steel-fermented Chardonnay. For the oaky stuff, our favorite pairings are with farmhouse cheddars like Fiscalini Bandage-Wrapped California Cheddar and Cabot Clothbound Vermont Cheddar. For a buttery, unoaked Chardonnay, we recommend pairing it with tangy mountain cheeses like Morbier.

Cheeses That Pair With Pinot Grigio Wine
Pinto Grigio, or Pinot Gris in French, is a relatively light-bodied wine that often has hints of citrus. This versatile wine is considered to be quite food friendly and thus pairs well with many cheeses. We most enjoy Pinot Grigio when paired with Fresh Mozzarella, Humboldt Fog Chevre or Garrotxa, an earthy, firm-textured goat cheese from Catalonia.

Cheeses That Pair With Riesling Wine
Riesling wine tends to have high acidity and a spicy, sweet, honey-like flavor, making it an excellent foil to washed rind cheeses. We find that Riesling pairs exceptionally well with Raclette, and Limburger.

Cheeses That Pair With Sauvignon Blanc Wine
Sauvignon Blanc wine is best known as a pairing for goat cheeses because of its bright acidity, tropical fruitiness, and grassy, herbaceous aromas. Cheeses that we recommend to pair with Sauvignon Blanc include Coach Farms' Green Peppercorn Chevre and Crottin.

Dessert Wine and Cheese Pairing Guide

Cheeses That Pair With Moscato Wine
This sweet Italian wine from the Asti region pairs perectly with dessert cheeses, especially blues. Go with Mountain Gorgonzola, Gorgonzola Dolce and Crescenza.

Cheeses That Pair With Port Wine
Port is typically consumed as a dessert wine, meaning that dessert cheeses, especially blues, pair extremely well with it. Its most famous combination is pairing it with Blue Stilton, but it works equally well when served alongside Shropshire Blue and Cashel Blue.

Cheeses That Pair With Sauternes Wine
Sauternes is sometimes referred to as the "Nectar of the Gods," because of its decandent qualities. This dessert wine pairs so well with so many cheese types that we could almost list our entire selection here. However, since we have established a theme of pairing blue cheeses with dessert wines, we will continue to the effect. The reason blues pair so well with sweet dessert wines is because their inherent saltiness is balanced so well by the syrupy sweetness of the wine. We suggest pairing Sauternes with Roquefort Black Label by Papillon, Fourme d'Ambert and Bleu d'Auvergne.

Wine and Cheese Gift Guide
In partnership with the award-winning French and Italian style wines from Crossing Vineyards Winery, igourmet offers a complete selection of premium quality, expertly curated Wine and Cheese Gift Baskets for all occasions. Make no mistake, these are not run-of-the-mill Wine and Cheese Baskets you may find elsewhere. All of our collective expertise goes into creating the world's best, most exciting Wine and Cheese Gifts found anywhere. Varieties include our Cabernet Sauvignon Wine and Cheese Gift Basket, our Chardonnay Wine and Cheese Gift Basket, our Champagne and Cheese Gift Basket, plus several others - each bringing together top quality wines from Crossing Vineyards, several premium cheeses that make for excellent pairings, plus other delicious specialty foods like dark chocolates, crunchy crackers and sweet cookies.

Cheeses Bathed in Wine
Ubriacoigourmet offers a wide range of cheeses that are bathed in wine during their aging process. These fun cheeses offer the Wine and Cheese experience all in one bite. Some examples are:

  • Brillo Pecorino DiVino 
  • Briscole al Barbera 
  • Murcia al Vino a.k.a. Drunken Goat 
  • Testun al Barolo 
  • Ubriaco al Prosecco 
  • Ubriaco al Vino 
  • Ubriaco Tramonto Rosso 
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