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Pairing Cheese with Wine: 6 Tips to Know

It is said that wine palates become more sensitive when a wine is paired with cheese. For centuries, sommeliers and wine lovers have combined wine and cheese to create one of the world’s most famous food pairings.

Indulging in this culinary art, however, can be a daunting prospect for those who are new to the concept. Lucky for them, historians and wine connoisseurs have kept the wisdom of wine and food combinations alive through the generations through record keeping and practice.

So if you’re wondering where to begin, we are here to throw light on the essentials of pairing wine with cheese that is well-understood among wine-drinking circles.

Pair cheeses with wines from the same region

While this is not a rule, it is one of the easiest ways of getting your pairing right if you are an amateur. A particular varietal of grape grown in different regions will yield wines of different characteristics.

Wines acquire their tastes and flavours from the environment in which they are produced. The same can be said of any food, including cheese. So if a cheese and a wine belong to the same geographical region, there are more chances than not that they will share common taste characteristics.

So feel free to pair Italian Asiago cheese with Italian Chianti or the classic Selles-sur-Cher goat cheese with a Sauvignon Blanc, both of which originate in the Loire Valley of France.

Don’t let the wine outweigh the cheese

One of the most basic aspects to be considered while pairing any food with wine is weight. As the classic British adage goes – “white wine with fish and red wine with meat”, one should always evenly match the richness of the body of the wine and the heaviness of the food.

For instance, white wine goes well with cheesy pasta whereas red wine goes well with pasta in rich tomato sauce. This is because a stronger wine will overwhelm the taste of a milder flavoured cheese and vice versa. You can rarely go wrong if you follow this commonly agreed-upon wine and cheese pairing rule. Thus, strong and full-bodied wines are generally best paired with intensely flavorful cheese.

Pair a heavy, red Cabernet Sauvignon with a strong cheese like cheddar or a Pinot Noir with the delicate Gruyère for best results.

Hard, aged cheeses are better matched with more tannic wines

The more aged the cheese, the harder and more fatty it is. Such cheeses are best paired with wines rich in tannins. Full-bodied red wines usually have a high tannic value.

The tannins counterbalance the fat in aged cheeses and cleanse the palate. Rich, red wines also match the intensity of hard and aged cheeses.

For those of you who prefer red wines over white wines, choose aged cheeses such as Pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano to combine with a Nebbiolo wine.

Soft and creamy cheese go wonderfully well with more acidic wines

Soft-textured cheeses are usually paired with wines that have higher acidic content.

White wines and light-bodied red wines generally have high acidity which cuts through the creaminess of the cheese, refreshing the palate.

For your creamy Brie or Ricotta cheese, opt for a light-bodied, red Pinot Noir or a full-bodied white Chardonnay.

Balance the stinky and salty with the sweet

Strong-flavoured stinky cheese or salty ones should be paired with sweet wines for an ideal combination.

The stink or saltiness of the cheese is balanced by the sweetness of the wine and vice versa. Washed-rind and blue-veined cheeses would go perfectly with sweet wines.

Pair a thick-bodied sweet Port with the pungent Bleu Cheese or the Gewürztraminer with the stinky Morbier cheese to achieve the optimum flavour of a wine and cheese combination.

If you’re still unsure, go with a sparkling wine

They say that sparkling wine goes well with most cheeses, especially if it’s Champagne. So if a delicious pairing is still eluding you, opt for a Champagne with nutty flavours that will complement a range of cheeses from fresh to hard as its carbonation balances out the butterfat effect of cheese and cleanses the palate.

While wine and cheese pairing is a centuries-old practice and there is plenty of wisdom to go around on what goes best with what, in the end, combinations also depend a lot on individual taste.

We strongly recommend the above tips to those who are actively looking for guidance on the topic. For those who are feeling a bit adventurous – indulging in a bit of trial and error never hurt, but keeping in mind some basic wisdom on wine and cheese combinations will go a long way in helping you host those wine tasting parties!