5 TIPS TO PAIR WINE AND CHEESE

I am a cheese lover!

I love wine, I love cheese, I am French…so cliché!

Haha…but this is true.

I often hear that red wine is perfect with cheese… I was looking for pictures of wine & cheese…almost every picture features red wine. But actually, this is not the best pairing for most of the cheeses.

There are so many different cheeses. In France there is Cheese AOC certification as wine. Yes, cheese is a serious stuff too 😉

So how to pair them? How to taste them?

Let’s discover more about this, all easy & fun!

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World of cheese

It exists so many cheeses around the world. It can fit many tastes.

There many famous cheeses. According to different organisations, some recognized over 400-500 and even 1,000 different ones! The International Dairy Federation mentions 50 different varieties. In France, cheeses have as wine their AOC (Apellation d’Origine Controlée) certification. It guaranties a specific geographical area of production, ingredients and know-how.

We can sort cheeses by many different criteria:

  • texture (soft, hard)
  • flavor (light, strong, creamy, spongy, firm…)
  • animal milk (cow, goat, sheep…)
  • country or region of origin
  • method of production
  • fat content
  • etc.

So let’s see how we pair them with wine…

1/ All about balance Intensity

As food pairing, everything is about balance.

You need to pair a wine and a cheese with the same intensity level to not have one taking over the other one. Wine aromas will also compliment the ones of your cheese.

They are different but go perfectly with each other and it creates an amazing wedding!

2/ Wine pairing suggestions

So why red is not the best pairing for most (not all!) cheeses? Intensity matter… indeed, red wine will be too strong and its power will take over the cheese taste. Hence, white wine is better too pair with cheese. Also white wine acidity will balance fatty side of the cheese. But of course not every white wine. Let’s see some suggestions:

  • Goat cheese (Crottin de Chavignol, Valencay, Picodon…): dry white wine aromatic with floral and citrus aromas, white fruits (pear, apple..). Example of grape based wine: Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chenin Blanc, some Chardonnay…

 

  • Fresh cheese (Cottage cheese, Ricotta, Mozzarella…): Young crisp and floral white wine
    Example of grape based wine: Riesling, Pinot Grigio…

 

  • Semi hard cheese (Emmental, Gruyère, Comté…): dry white wine soft with creamy and fruity aromas.
    Example of grape based wine: Chardonnay, Viognier, Marsanne…
    Note: Comté cheese often has some nutty taste and can pair also with some nutty taste wine such as Arbois etc.

 

  • Creamy cheese (Camembert, Brie…): as the taste is stronger, red wine is a perfect pairing. Pick a light intensity.
    Example of grape based wine: Pinot Noir, Gamay Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese…

 

  • Hard cheese (Cantal, Parmesan, Gouda, Cheddar…): Taste is even stronger and you can pick some even stronger red wine.
    Example of grape based wine: Cabernet-Merlot blend, Syrah-Grenache blend, Malbec, Carignan, Tempranillo…
    Note: With Parmesan, I especially love Prosecco pairing. I went over a weekend with my fiancé in Italy, Venice and we spent our 3 days trying a lot of different Prosecco with Parmesan, perfect aperitivo…

  • Blue cheese (Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Stilton…): back to the white but on the sweet side, this is definitely a fantastic pairing. Sweet is also strong in intensity and perfectly balance blue cheese’ intensity.
    Example of grape based wine: Semillon, Muscadelle, Gewurztraminer, Muscat…
    Note: Fortified wines are also perfect such as Port.

 

  • Washed cheese (Epoisses, Munster, Taleggio…): often sticky, strong in smell as taste, those cheese also go well with sweet white wine.
    Example of grape based wine: Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris…

 

* Of course this does not cover all cheese. Pairings will depend also of the length of aging that will impact cheese taste, flavor, intensity and thus, wine pairing too!

It is also up to your own taste, try and enjoy!

3/ How to taste them

Temperature can impact on taste as texture so don’t mess up with it! Ensure you wine is at the right temperature (more coming about soon) but cheese too! Cheese needs to be at room temperature: too cold will freeze aromas / too warm will affect the texture.

Which one do we taste first?

1/ Taste the wine: notice aromas, appreciate.

2/ Taste the cheese: same, notice the aromas, texture, strength…

3/ Taste again the wine: notice if you feel any difference. Does the cheese and wine pair and compliment each other?

Enjoy!

4/ Think local

As nature is rightly made, best pairings come from the same place.

One of the most famous local pairing is Sancerre white wine + Crottin de Chavignol goat cheese. Both come from the same place and compliment perfectly each other.

Have you ever tried?

This is a great souvenir as during my wine studies, one of my year end evaluation was about recognizing among a cheese board the Crottin de Chavignol and suggest a pairing. Of course I suggested some Sancerre!

5/ Top up your platter

You can add many stuff on your cheese platter to bring many flavors:

  • Fresh fruits: grapes, apple slices
  • Vegetables: salad, sundried tomatoes, pickles…
  • Dried fruits: cranberry, grapes, plums, apricot…
  • Nuts: almonds, walnuts…
  • Bread: many kinds of breads exist: plain, rye flour, special flour (chestnut will bring a sweet taste), buckwheat (perfect for gluten free foodies) etc.
  • Butter: I strongly recommend salty butter
  • Black pepper: especially with semi hard cheese such as Emmental, Comté, or some goat cheese…delicious!
  • Jam: figs, red fruits…perfect with goat cheese!

Be creative, add colors and enjoy!

Bonus

This is another wonderful souvenir with my fiancé going to some secret castle in France, Champagne early this year…

Look at this wonderful cheese platter. I wish to have such one everyday!

Cheers!

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