Know Your Cheeses — Why It Matters When It Comes to Wine

People have been serving wine and cheese together for generations. But are they gettingFotolia_90680079_XS the most out of the experience?

We can probably all agree that not every cheese pairs well with every wine — just as you wouldn’t serve an ultra-dry wine like Cabernet Sauvignon with an ultra-sweet dessert like blueberry cream pie.

So how does one pick the “right” wine to pair with the “right” cheese? Here are a few general — but not written-in-stone — rules:

  1. White wines pair better with many cheeses than red wines.
  2. The best red wines to serve with cheese are those that are light and fruity.
  3. Salty cheeses pair best with wines that are high in acidity.
  4. When the cheese is high in acidity, a sweet wine works best.
  5.  Follow the “When in Rome Rule”: Pair cheeses and wines that hail from the same region.

Now, here are some popular cheese-and-wine pairings for you to try. Remember, every palate is different, so use this as a guide, not a set of rules.

  • Bleu Cheese — This actually is a category of cheese, not s specific cheese. But the suggested wine pairing works with Roquefort (made from sheep’s milk), Gorgonzola (made from cow’s milk) or Stilton (specifically Blue Stilton from England). It’s often served with crackers, pear slices, raisins and walnuts.

Wine Match: Port.

  • Brie — A soft cheese named after the French region of the same name. Often buttery and sometimes runny, it’s considered one of the great dessert cheeses.

Wine Match: Pinot Noir.

  • Cheddar (aged) — The most widely purchased and eaten cheese in the world, Cheddar is always made from cow’s milk. Creamy and sharp, the sharpness intensifies with aging.

Wine Match: Malbec.

  • Feta — To create traditional feta, 30 percent goat’s milk is mixed with sheep’s milk of animals grazing on pastures in the specific Greece appellation of origin. Styles and flavors can vary, but the flavors are fairly consistent.

Wine Match: Sauvignon Blanc.

  • Gouda (aged) — A Dutch cheese named after the city of Gouda in the Netherlands, Gouda is one of the most popular cheeses in the world, accounting for 50 to 60 percent of the world’s cheese consumption. Aging brings out more complex flavors.

Wine Match: Cabernet Sauvignon.

  • Gruyere — Named after a Swiss village, it’s traditionally creamy, unpasteurized and semi-soft.

Wine Match: Chardonnay.

  • Manchego — Produced in Spain’s La Mancha region, it’s made from unpasteurized sheep’s milk. Different versions are aged for three months (Semi Curado), six months (Curado), or a year (Viejo).

Wine Matches: Sauvignon Blanc for Semi Curado, or Tempranillo for Curado and Viejo.

  • Monterey Jack — Commonly used in Mexican and Spanish cuisine, as it’s mild in flavor and melts well. It’s similar in flavor and texture to Colby and Cheddar.

Wine Matches: Merlot and Malbec.

  • Mozzarella — Unlike most cheeses, Mozzarella is not aged; it’s intended to be eaten fresh.

Wine Match: Pinot Grigio.

  • Parmesan — Considered one of the top cheeses by cheese connoisseurs, it has a hard, gritty texture and is fruity and nutty in flavor.

Wine Match: Prosecco.

  • Ricotta — An Italian cheese made from the whey part of sheep’s milk, which is pressed, salted and aged for at least 90 days. It has a firm texture and salty taste.

Wine Match: Riesling (dry or off dry)


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Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes, Wine Buzz, Wine in the Glass
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