Cheese and wine are a match made in heaven, if you get them right! We have a bit of a port & Stilton hangover in the UK and assume we should drink a big red wine with cheese but in fact, in many cases, white wine would work better, especially for more delicate or complex cheeses.
Blue, stinky, soft, hard, creamy, salty, fresh, aged – the styles go on and on! And each needs style needs it own wine pairing to really get the best from the combo.
When we food and wine match, our aim is to balance and complement both parts. Cheese is basically fat and acidity so we need something that will cut through the fat and balance the acidity; white wines will usually do this better than reds. Of course there are exceptions, where big strong flavours need to pair with the same, and don’t forget personal preference, so here’s a few ideas of what will work well together:
Ricotta (and other light, fresh cheeses)
Fresh cheeses are light and delicate so look for the same in your wine pairing. Miopasso Pinot Grigio or Divici Prosecco Spumante, both from Italy (albeit different ends of the country) would be an ideal match. Light in body with a fresh acidity to cleanse the pallet.
The Loire Valley in France is famed for its Chevre cheese made from Goat’s milk. It’s also highly respected for Sauvignon Blanc – a great example of this region’s elegant take on this grape variety is Haut Poitou Sauvignon Blanc from Marcel Martin.
Here again there’s an affinity because they are made in the same place. If it grows with it, it goes with it! Floral, aromatic and complex Mas Buscados Macabeo, Spain pairs well with the oily, fruity Manchego Spanish Ewe’s cheese.
Epoisses (or other stinky/runny cheese)
The ultimate food and wine pairing would be Epoisses with Meursault 1er Cru, Château de Blagny, Louis Latour – both from Burgundy. Funnily enough the two are towns not that far away from each other, so it’s no surprise that the rich, heady, toasty wine is an ideal companion to this smelly, ripe, unctuous cheese.
Brie & Camembert
A Chablis would work well but the rustic twang of the cheese lends itself to a light, savoury red such as Pinot Noir, Hahn Winery, USA.
Cheddar (the stronger the better)
If it’s red you’re after, the True Zin Zinfandel from Italy is a must. It’s dry, yet juicy style and smoky undertones really bring out the richness of the cheese.
Gorgonzola (and other creamy blues)
Botrytis white. We always talk about complementing with food and wine but here’s an example of where the opposite applies. The sweet Botrytis Semillon Vat 5 De Bortoli, Australia and salty cheese counteract each other, creating a dance of flavour for the palate.