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Wine & Cheese pairing tips

Updated: Jun 5, 2021

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. 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. Ancient cheesemaking and winemaking traditions continue today, almost exactly the same as when they were first developed hundreds of years ago

Wine & Cheese Pairing Guidelines

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

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.

The best way to execute a pairing is to discover it by trial and error.

In preparation, open a bottle of wine & 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 & 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 crème 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 & Cheese Pairing Guide

Cheese to Pair with Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Sauvignon is not the most cheese-friendly wine, as its deep, complex flavors often clash with the lactic qualities of cheese & its long finish can interfere with enjoying your next bite. Cabernet Sauvignon does pair very well with salami & 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 pairs well with Cabernet Sauvignon.

Cheeses to Pair with Merlot 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 Merlots from top wine clubs 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.

Cheese to Pair with Chianti & Sangiovese 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.

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

Cheeses to Pair with Zinfandel 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 & Cheese Pairing Guide

Cheeses to Pair with Chardonnay 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 wine, 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 to Pair with Pinot Grigio 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 to Pair with Riesling 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.

Cheeses to Pair with Sauvignon Blanc 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.

Cheeses to Pair With Champagne & Sparkling Wines 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-crèmes, 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.

Dessert Wine & Cheese Pairing Guide

Cheeses That Pair With Sauternes Wine Sauternes is sometimes referred to as the "Nectar of the Gods," because of its decadent 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.

Cheeses That Pair With Moscato Wine This sweet Italian wine from the Asti region pairs perfectly 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 Bathed in Wine

igourmet 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:

Wine & Cheese Gifts

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 Cheese Gift Boxes to pair with a variety of wines for all occasions. Varieties include our Cheese Gift Boxes to pair with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Champagne plus several others - each bringing together top quality premium cheeses that make for excellent pairings, plus gift boxes may include other delicious specialty foods like dark chocolates, crunchy crackers and sweet cookies.

Find the top monthly Clubs, Stores and Gifts to shop. Join or give a gift of the best Charcuterie Cured Meat Club, Gourmet Cheese Club, Fine Wine Club, Craft Beer Clubs & Liquor Clubs on website.

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