A guide to pairing fine wine with cheese

A guide to pairing fine wine with cheese

by Westgarth Wines June 04, 2024

Pairing wine with cheese is a tradition that has delighted gourmands for centuries. The harmonious interplay between the rich flavors of cheese and the complex profiles of fine wines creates a culinary experience that is both sophisticated and indulgent.

Where tannins are present in wine these will bind with proteins, such as those found in cheese, allowing the other flavors of the cheese and wine to show more prominently, adding a new dimension to tasting and elevating the overall experience.

This guide will delve into the theory behind pairing wine with various types of cheese, helping you to understand the nuances of pairings and offering insights into creating the perfect match.

Strong cheeses

Strong cheeses, such as aged Gouda, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and sharp Cheddar, boast robust and intense flavors. These cheeses often require a wine that can stand up to their potency without being overwhelmed.

Suggested pairings:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon: The full-bodied nature and tannic structure of a Cabernet Sauvignon complement the boldness of strong cheeses. Its dark fruit flavors and slight bitterness enhance the complexity of the cheese. Why not pair a strong, crunchy cheddar with the structured power of Martha’s Vineyard by Heitz to unfurl its incredible tension?

  • Zinfandel: Known for its jammy fruit flavors and peppery notes, Zinfandel pairs wonderfully with aged Cheddar and Gouda, balancing their sharpness with its rich profile. The Moore Earthquake Zinfandel by Turley possesses the sort of spectacular fruit concentration to really excel at this pairing.

Blue cheeses

Blue cheeses, such as Roquefort, Gorgonzola, and Stilton, are characterized by their tangy, salty, and pungent flavors. These cheeses need a wine that can either complement or contrast their intensity.

Suggested pairings:

  • Port: The sweetness of a well-aged Port wine creates a beautiful contrast with the saltiness of blue cheese. The wine's rich, fruity notes bring out the creamy texture and nuanced flavors of the cheese. Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas Vinha Velha with its brilliant fruit would tackle a strong stilton for pairing perfection.

  • Sauternes: This sweet white wine from Bordeaux, with its honeyed and apricot flavors, pairs exquisitely with blue cheeses, enhancing their unique characteristics while providing a pleasant counterbalance. If you’ve been holding onto a bottle of Château d’Yquem for an occasion, then what better a pairing opportunity than with a good Gorgonzola?

Creamy cheeses

Creamy cheeses, such as Brie, Camembert, and triple-cream varieties, offer a lush and buttery texture that calls for wines with enough acidity to cut through the richness.

Suggested pairings:

  • Chardonnay: An oaked Chardonnay, with its buttery and vanilla notes, complements the creaminess of Brie and Camembert, while its acidity keeps the palate refreshed. Kongsgaard’s Napa Valley Chardonnay shows beautiful intensity and masterful use of oak would compliment a good Camembert with grace.

  • Champagne: The high acidity and effervescence of Champagne create a delightful contrast to the creamy texture of these cheeses, making each bite and sip feel balanced and refreshing while revealing the hidden nuances of each. The ideal combination would surely be Chaource, a rich and super-soft cheese from the Champagne region, with a naturally drier style of Champagne such as Krug.

Fresh cheeses

Fresh cheeses, like Mozzarella, Ricotta, and Feta, have a delicate flavor profile that pairs best with light and crisp wines. These cheeses are often mild, making them versatile in pairings.

Suggested pairings:

  • Sauvignon Blanc: Known for its zesty acidity and herbaceous notes, Sauvignon Blanc enhances the freshness of cheeses like Mozzarella and Feta, highlighting their subtle flavors. To add another level of mineral complexity, why not pair a fresh cheese with Didier Dagueneau’s Silex?

  • Chablis: A crisp, dry and mineral-driven Chablis like Raveneau's Montée de Tonnerre pairs beautifully with a tangy Feta cheese for a refreshingly mediterranean combination.

Hard cheeses

Hard cheeses, such as Manchego, Pecorino, and Asiago, have a firm texture and concentrated flavors that require wines with strong character and complexity.

Suggested pairings:

  • Chianti: The bright acidity and cherry notes of a Chianti like Fontodi’s Chianti Riserva Vigna del Sorbo complement the nutty and salty flavors of hard cheeses like Pecorino and Asiago, creating a balanced pairing.

  • Rioja: With its rich fruit flavors and subtle oak influence, a well-aged Rioja pairs beautifully with Manchego, enhancing its nutty and slightly sweet profile. Rioja Alta’s beautifully long-aged Gran Reserva 890 would be the perfect combination. To add yet another dimension, drizzle honey and scattered rosemary over the Manchego.

The art of pairing wine with cheese lies in balancing flavors and textures to create a harmonious experience. By understanding the characteristics of both the cheese and the wine, you can elevate your tasting experiences and discover new dimensions of enjoyment. Whether you prefer the boldness of strong cheeses with a full-bodied red or the delicate freshness of light cheeses with a crisp white, there is a perfect pairing waiting to be savored. Explore, taste, and enjoy the delightful symphony of fine wine and cheese.


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