Pairing Wine and Cheese

Some interesting facts about wine and cheese pairing …

  • Wine and cheese pairings go back at least 4,000 years.
  • Both products are made from living substances and improve with age.
  • Both are a product of fermentation (the process by which yeast cells introduce chemical changes).
  • Both reflect their terroir (the combination of soil, climate and region from which the product comes).

Traditionalists suggest that wine and cheese be paired according to region or strength, thus preventing one from overpowering the other. Part of the reason for this is the tannin levels. Red wines have a higher concentration than white and this affects the pairing characteristics.

Wines with higher tannin content pair well with harder cheeses, whereas creamy cheeses require a wine with higher acidity. Whiter, fresher cheeses complement a crisper, fruitier wine. Heavy or rich cheeses make a fine partner to light reds or even Chardonnay. Some examples are Caraway with Gewürztraminer, Feta with Beaujolais, Havarti with Bordeaux.

Those who enjoy a sweet or dessert wine should seek out a strong, veined cheese. A full-bodied white or younger red with lower tannins goes well with a soft, bloomy white or red dotted rind.

Wine and cheese pairing examples:

  • Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Riesling (even a Pinot Blanc) goes wonderfully with most Goat’s cheeses such as Fontina or Feta, Averti or Emmental.
  • A dry Gewürztraminer pairs delectably with Brie or Camembert, Livarot or Oka.
  • Gamay Noir or Cabernet Franc, even Barbaresco, does just fine with no rind, a Gouda, Gruyère or Munster.
  • A complex Pinot Noir or Syrah, or one of the new Super Tuscans, pair well with a Chaput, Langres or Gubbeen.
  • Bordeaux or Grenache goes well with the oiled Parmigiano, Cantal or Tilsit.
  • Sweet Vouvray or Sauternes, or your favorite Auxe Icewine, go best with a blue-veined, or a Cambonzola, Moutonnière or Mascarpone.

(For a more complete list of pairing ideas, check out the Wine & Cheese Pairing Wheel. Features 40 popular cheeses!)

Traditionalists tend to favor the tried and true rules of full-bodied wines with full-flavored cheeses and light wines with light cheeses. Radicals advocate experimentation and will favor the new and zesty. And the Anarchist will say: ‘Down with rules!’

Which one are you?

Whatever your leaning, it’s a consensus that wine and cheese are the perfect running mates.


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