Whether you’re planning a party or just getting a small group together, whether you’re an experienced wine connoisseur or someone who just loves trying out new tastes and experimenting in the kitchen, or if you’re stepping your way through the cheese course during a fancy meal out, you can’t go wrong with pairing a good wine with a flavorful cheese and sitting back and relaxing to a great evening of drinking, eating and good conversation.
Here are few pairing suggestions for your next wine and cheese tasting:
Goat cheese (Altenburger Ziegenkäse PDO, Banon, Sainte-Maure): If it’s a young cheese, select a fresh, fruity wine. If it’s a riper variety or has herbs mixed in, choose a medium to complex white wine that will catch the more intensive cheese aromas.
Semi-hard cheese (Limburger, Rauchkäse, Backsteiner, Appenzeller, Gouda, Tomme de Savoie): This really depends on the flavor profile of the cheese, but you can’t go wrong with a Riesling or a light Beaujolais. A stronger cheese goes well with fruity, low-acid white wines.
Blue cheeses (Cambozola, Bavaria Blue, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Stilton): These really requires a careful pairing; to contrast the strong taste in the cheese, your best choice is a sweet wine that can even have a lightly acidic taste; you could even go so far as to pair these with dessert wines, ports or sherries.
Hard cheeses (Allgäuer Bergkäse, Emmentaler, Sbrinz, Gruyere, Manchego, Parmesan, Comté extra vieux): These go well with white wines with strong aromas, and fruity red wines; the stronger or more nutty the cheese, the fuller a flavor profile of the wine. The more concentrated salt and fat content in these cheeses go well with the tannins in the red wine.
Soft, creamy cheeses (Quark, Obatzda Brie, Camembert): Dry or semi-dry Riesling; even try Champagne or Prosecco; for a soft cheese with a washed rind, consider a Gewurztraminer or a late-harvested sweet wine (Spätlese)
|Cheese||White wine||Red wine|
|Soft cheeses||Dry to semi-dry Riesling, young Grauburgunder||Spätburgunder, Trollinger|
|Soft cheese with washed rind||Dry Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Silvaner||Dornfelder|
|Fresh cheese||Silvaner, Weißburgunder, Bacchus|
|Blue cheese||Beerenauslese, Eiswein|
|Goat cheese||Silvaner, Weißburgunder, Riesling|
|Semi-hard cheese||Weißburgunder and semi-dry Riesling, Gewurztraminer for stronger varieties||Light Burgunder|
|Hard cheese||Kerner, Riesling||Lemburger, Dornfelder|
a) It’s all about the contrast: As you taste the wine and the cheese you want to be drawing out a contrast that complements the two. So for example, the harder the cheese, the more tannin content you can have in the wine. A more sour-tasting or salty cheese goes best with a semi-dry or sweet wine. The creamier the cheese, the more acidic the wine can be. In general though, be careful of acidic wines in these pairings – the acidic flavor in the wine doesn’t always complement the sour dairy notes in the cheese.
b) But that doesn’t mean that everything should contrast: Experts generally suggest matching the smell profiles of the wine and cheese. So for example a cheese with fruity notes goes very well with a fruity wine.
c) Consider both reds and whites: Though generally associated with wine and cheese pairings and often recommended on menus, red wines are not always the best option. Reds might at first glance seems to be a good counterpart to cheese, but they often have more subdued flavor profiles than whites, which means that they can be easily dominated by a strong cheese. According to Manfred Klimek, a wine columnist for Die Zeit, “Hard cheese is really the only cheese that doesn’t snuff out a cool and high-tannin red wine”
d) Be creative: Not every wine and cheese pairing has to be the same – and trust your taste buds to guide you toward a combination that you find most interesting. Do you have an all-time favorite cheese? Try it with a couple different wines: take a sip of the wine, then a bite of the cheese, and then another sip of the wine and see how the taste profile changes. Do you like it? Or does one dominate the other? It’s a process of endless experimentation!
e) Arrange the cheese in order: When you arrange the cheese on a plate, arrange it from mildest to strongest. That way you and your guests can visualize the options in terms of how powerful the tastes of each cheese are, meaning less time of wavering over which one to try next.