News and views | Will Studd's tips for matching cheese and wine

News and views

Will Studd's tips for matching cheese and wine

Those of you who are lucky enough to live in Oz have the enticing prospect of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival coming up next month - a two week extravaganza of feasts, workshops and tastings with some of the country's top foodies and wine experts.

I thought the rest of you who, like me, are shivering in the Northern hemisphere (will the weather EVER warm up?) might like the chance to vicariously enjoy a couple of the sessions in the 'Perfect Match', a weekend of seminars on food and wine pairing.

First, I put a few questions to cheese expert Will Studd of Cheese Slices who is hosting a wine and cheese seminar with Steve Flamsteed of Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander in the Yarra Valley.

So, Will, what should we be thinking about in wine terms when we're matching cheese?

Cheese and wine matching is all about taste and texture and is usually based on finding a complementary or contrasting balance of flavours and textures. There are no firm rules and you can have a lot fun trying the myriad of possible combinations but the starting point is always to look for similarities of character and strength.

Can you give some examples of the styles of wines that work best with individual cheeses?

Goat’s milk cheeses are extraordinarily versatile in matching with wine. The lingering, creamy flavours of a fresh goat cheese go particularly well with sparkling wines or fresh, crisp whites such as Sauvignon Blanc with a dry finish. Pinot Gris is particularly good with creamy surface-ripened goat cheeses matured under a wrinkled geotrichum rind, while semi-hard and mature goat cheeses are more at home with juicy, fruity reds with soft tannins such as Pinot Noir and Merlot and even robust aged reds.

And some of the ones that don't hit it off so well?

Regrettably countless bottles of expensive red wine are ritually wasted on cheese matching, perhaps because cheese is often served at a time in the meal when red wine is still on the table. This is particularly the case in Australia where red wines often contain a lot of tannin. This astringent substance is a natural enemy to the creamy, lactic flavours of many locally soft surface mould-ripened cheeses and blue mould-ripened cheeses which tend to be high in fat leading to nasty bitter, angular, hollow, metallic or even mousy flavours.

Are there other ingredients/sides you can bring to the party that makes a pairing more likely to work?

Light sourdough bread or crispy baguette are the ideal accompaniments with cheese - bread, wine and cheese are the holy trinity in France.

Apples are great for cleansing the palate when tasting different types of cheese. There's an old adage which says ‘Buy on apples and sell on cheese', the idea being that, while apple cleanses and sharpens the palate, the fatty coating of cheese can easily hide imperfections in wine. By offering potential customers cheese when they were tasting wine, a wine merchant could make the wine seem smoother and richer than it really was.

Surprise me with a match I'd never think would work and tell me why it does

2 year old Cravero Parmigiano Reggiano is a great companion with an Australian sparkling burgundy (not sure you're allowed to call it that these days, Will ;-)

The effervescent sparkling acidity of the wine slices through the fine crumbly texture of this hard cooked cheese emphasising both the condensed caramel sweetness and the heady perfume in the wine.

Will Studd and Steve Flamsteed's The Classic Wine and Cheese is on at 10am-11.15am on Saturday March 9th. Lucky you if you can get there . . .


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And for more hot tips and recommendations check out my Substack Eat This, Drink That, Live Well.

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