Health Fitness

Classic cheese and wine pairing

Cheese and wine go together like… well, cheese and wine! I find it hard to think of a better partner. If you’re hosting a dinner party or wine tasting, cheese is an obvious choice as an easy and delicious accompaniment to many wines. Whether served as appetizers or as a formal cheese plate before dessert, cheeses can enhance the wine experience in many ways.

But just like with other foods, pairing cheese and wine can sometimes be tricky, with some pairings enhancing the wine and cheese experience and others just clashing. What is the solution? Stick to some of the classic cheese and wine pairings to start with, so you’re sure to have a big hit at your next wine tasting or dinner event.

As a general rule of thumb, try to pair wines with cheeses that are traditionally made in the same local region. Pair similar flavors, pair sweet wines with savory cheese, and balance tart wines with rich, creamy cheeses. These will become more obvious as you continue reading.

Champagne and cream cheeses

Champagne and many other sparkling wines tend to be intense and high in acidity. This bright, intense flavor pairs well with rich, creamy cheeses. The acidity beautifully cuts through the rich creaminess of the cheese. Classic cheeses like Brie and Camembert work well. However, for a real treat, try to find the ultra-rich triple cream cheeses, which means they are high in milk fat (around 75% in many cases). Examples of these include Saint-André, Brillat-Savarin, and Explorateur.

Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc with Chevre

Here is an example of pairing a wine with its local cheeses. Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc are white grapes native to the Loire Valley in France. Sauvignon Blanc makes up wines such as Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé while Chenin Blanc is found in Vouvray and Savennières, among others. The classic cheeses to pair with these intense white wines are the local Loire Valley goat cheeses (chèvre) produced throughout the region. The rich, earthy flavors of the goat contrast beautifully with the bright, mineral flavors of the wines.

Burgundy with Epoisse

In a sense, this is a classic stinky cheese and stinky wine pairing, but it’s also a local wine and cheese pairing. Epoisse is a classic cheese produced in, you guessed it, Burgundy in France. For some cheese lovers, it is the king of cheeses. When ripe, it can be quite stinky, with a pungent, rich, meaty, creamy, salty flavor. Other examples from the region that may be similar are Afidelice and Pié d’Angloys. Only wines that are equally pungent, complex, earthy, and rich can stand up to such a cheese. Local Burgundy red wines, made from Pinot Noir, can often meet the requirements. Aged examples can often take on stinky, weedy, earthy, fungal, and meaty aromas and flavors. Pairing these aromatic, meaty, earthy wines with spicy cheese can be sublime. Other wines can also work. Look for rich wines with earthy flavors. Some examples that may work include Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Bandol.

Piedmontese wines with truffle cheese

Piedmont wines, particularly those made from the Nebbiolo grape, can have a distinctive earthy white truffle aroma. In fact, white truffles, those famous and expensive mushrooms, are found in the same region! Is it a mistake that wines pair wonderfully with those earthy truffle aromas? Local cheeses, such as Boschetto al Tartufo, often incorporate bits of truffle and pair perfectly with local wines from Barolo, Barbaresco and even some of the richer Barberas.

Harbor and Stilton

One of the most classic cheese and wine pairings of all time, Port and Stilton seem to be made for each other. They seem to break all the rules. Their flavors are quite different and they are not produced in the same region. Port, Portugal’s fortified wine, is usually quite sweet and full-bodied. Stilton, a traditional English blue cow’s milk cheese, is creamy, tangy and salty. Yet somehow the sweetness of the wine perfectly cuts through the creaminess and saltiness of the cheese. Other blue cheeses can work, but for the ultimate in classic cheese and wine pairings, serve the real English Stilton with port at your next wine tasting.

Sauternes and Roquefort

For similar reasons, Sauternes, the sweet Bordeaux wine, and Roquefort, the original French blue cheese, complement each other beautifully. Roquefort is lighter in color than Stilton and appears slightly saltier. While it can work with a red dessert wine like Port, it really comes into its own with a brighter white sweet wine like Sauternes. While the wine’s sticky, sweet flavor may be too much for all but the most intense sweet tooth, the Roquefort’s salty pungency helps cut and balance the sweetness in a way that takes both to another level.

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