Pairing wine and cheese: 6 ways to do it better
Ask most people what the best wine is with cheese and most would choose a full-bodied red. But is it really the best pairing? It depends on the wine, it depends on the cheese and it depends on you. If you LOVE red wine with cheese nothing is going to put you off the experience.
If however you’d like to up your game when it comes to wine and cheese matching here are some top tips (based on YEARS of wine drinking and cheese scoffing!)
Decide which is the hero, the cheese or the wine
Artisan handmade cheeses are harder to pair with wine than mass produced supermarket cheeses. Why? Because they tend to be matured longer and have a more pronounced texture and flavour. If you really enjoy your cheese at the point at which it’s running off the cheese board don’t pair it with your most precious wine.
If you have a special bottle pick a cheese to match
The more cheeses you have the more unlikely it is one wine will go with them all. If you’re putting together a cheeseboard to show off an expensive wine avoid strong blues and powerful, pongy washed rind cheeses. Cutting the rind off the cheese on your plate also helps to avoid bitter notes that can jar with a fine red.
Other ingredients can help
The bread or crackers you choose, the kind of fruit - fresh or dried - nuts, olives, and cold meats can all help a wine pairing along. Think of the classic match of manchego and membrillo (quince paste) or a a crumbly walnut bread with blue cheese. Introducing another ingredient can build a bridge to the wine you’re drinking and make it taste more delicious. (Brie, fresh cherries and Beaujolais which has cherry notes of its own is another example.)
White wine often goes better with cheese than red
Surprised? Well think of the fruits that go with cheese - apples and pears being the obvious example. Their fresh flavours are reflected in white wines rather than red.
Classic white wine matches are goats cheese and sauvignon blanc and comté with the local crisp whites of the Jura region (alpine cheeses generally go better with white wines than red). And next time you’re eating cheddar try a glass of oaky chardonnay. You may be pleasantly surprised!
Respect tried and tested matches but don’t be afraid to take them a step further
Analyze what makes them work. Stillton and port for example is a demonstration of the fact that sweet red wines go with blue cheese. So why not an amarone or Valpolicella ripasso red with gorgonzola? Or sweet white wines with a blue (just as Sauternes goes with Roquefort)
Decide when you’re going to serve the cheese - French-style after the main course or after dessert
If it’s the former, tailor your cheeseboard to the wine you’re drinking with the main course. That's quite likely to be red so concentrate on harder cheeses. If it’s the latter choose cheeses that pair well with sweet wines (so blues rather than a delicate goats cheese, for example). If you're buying from an independent cheese shop let them know what else you're planning for the menu and, if possible, get a taste.
For many more tips and some sensational cheese pairings why don’t you download my ebook 101 Great Ways to Enjoy Cheese & Wine.
Image © Belokoni Dmitri at fotolia.com
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