You’re on a road trip. You’re getting hungry, so you start checking the billboards and other roadside signs for dining ideas.
Rather than another meal at another chain restaurant, you’re hoping to find something different. Perhaps a ma-and-pa tavern where you can sit down and enjoy a homemade burger with a slice of melting cheddar cheese.
Restaurant critics probably wouldn’t consider that a gourmet experience. But be honest: Does anything taste better than a just-off-the-grill cheddar burger? Add a glass of wine, and life truly is good.
But as we know, few things in life are simple. In this case, pairing the cheddar burger with the right wine–if the tavern even offers wine–can be challenging. So, to simplify this pairing conundrum, let’s take the burger out of the equation and focus solely on the cheese.
There are several different styles of cheddar, ranging from quite mild to very sharp. And each style calls for a different type of wine.
If mild cheddar is your preference, seek out a bottle of rich, creamy Chardonnay. Normally, these big, okay renditions are best enjoyed sans food, but mild cheddar cheese is a tasty exception to the rule. Because the cheese is so mellow, it doesn’t compete with the wine’s oakiness. In fact, the two characteristics actually complement one another.
A medium cheddar cheese calls for a red wine–specifically, Pinot Noir. Pinot typically has a mild earthy quality that complements the cheese without overwhelming it.
But if you believe that mild and medium cheddar cheeses are for wimps, and that only sharp cheddar is “real” cheddar, you’re in luck because the wine options are more numerous.
Sharp cheddar calls for a noticeably earthy style of wine, so seek bottlings such as Chateauneuf-du-Pape from Southern France, similar Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre blends from Australia or California, or bold Spanish reds.
Add a slice of sharp cheddar to a burger, and you can add Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to the wine pairing possibilities.