Almost like siblings, wine and cheese have spent centuries enjoyed alongside each other. In many regions, beloved pairings have been a staple of dinner tables and dessert courses, and have been adapted to better complement each other.
Both food and wine are quite subjective, and even the most popular wines and cheeses have their detractors. This makes pairing wine and cheese an art rather than a science. However, there are a few principles that should be kept in mind while pairing wine and cheese. Building pairings with these rules in mind will help you craft delicious matches for even the most complex and unusual wines.
Wine And Cheese Pairings: A Perfect Match
There are many historical ‘rules’ for wine and cheese pairings, but all of them should be taken with a grain of salt. Ultimately, tasting and experimenting are the only ways to know which pairings work best for your palate.
It’s important to remember that wine and cheese evolved during a period when travel was unusual. Local wine would have been consumed with local cheeses, and the bacteria and yeasts that helped to create flavours in a cheese would have also been responsible for creating the wines from the same region. It’s why they go so well together.
The globalization of trade has meant that we can find wines and cheeses from around the world. And pairings need to go beyond the simple regional match.
4 Rules To Follow When Pairing Wine And Cheese:
Instead of sticking by the old, outdated rules, these more modern suggestions will help you pick your newest favourite pairing.
The most basic guideline is to match wine and cheese in terms of intensity. This means that lighter wines like a Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc will better complement lighter, unaged cheeses like Brie, or Ricotta, while a more robust Rioja can stand up to a heartier cheese like an Aged Gouda or Manchego.
However, matching intensity with intensity is like a one note song. And contrasts between a wine and a cheese can be magical.
Pair Salty With Sweet
Eating salty cheeses like Parmesan or Pecorino Romano with a bubbly wine like Prosecco or Champagne are great complementary pairings because the acid of these wines causes the mouth to salivate, compensating for the saltiness in the cheese. A salty blue cheese goes well with a sweet wine like Sauternes or Port for a similar reason.
Contrast Sparkling With A Creamy Texture
Another great way to highlight a sparkling wine is with a creamy, rich cheese. A sweet, creamy cheese like Brie might be overwhelming with a sweet wine like Port, but a sparkling wine like Champagne has crisp acidity, which helps to cut through the intense creaminess by providing textural contrast.
Region Is Key
Many of the best wine and cheese pairings have a history of being prepared in the same region. Both wine and cheese are so closely connected to each other and have the ability to reflect the terroir of the land where they’re made.
Look for matching accents like grass, hay, or nuttiness in wines and cheeses from the same region. Some popular regional pairings include French Sauvignon Blanc, like Sancerre, and Crottin de Chavignol fresh goat cheese, or Alsatian Gewurztraminer with Muenster.
The Principles Of Pairing Wine And Cheese
When pairing wine and cheese, it’s best to think about the individual elements of each ingredient that make it exciting and find a matching wine or cheese that complements or contrasts those elements.
Hard, nutty cheese can be complemented by a rich Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc, or contrasted with a Prosecco or Chenin Blanc. Lighter, softer cheeses often pair well with a sweet dessert wine, or you could make a more audacious contrasting pairing by serving it alongside Merlot, or Rioja.
Whatever cheese you have on hand, you’ll be able to find the perfect complementary or contrasting pairing at Small Winemakers. We have many bottles from small up and coming vineyards and would love to help you find the best match for your palate. Contact us today to learn more about our selection.