How to Make a Quality Match
Whether you’re planning a large gathering or an intimate dinner, an attractively arranged assortment of cheese and charcuterie is always well received. Wine is a natural beverage partner for these savory spreads, but it’s easy to get intimidated by all the possible combinations. Based on a few simple principles—and even more importantly, your personal preferences—our guide will help you decide what to choose when pairing German wine and cheese.
What you should know about German wines
About two-thirds of Germany’s vineyards are planted with white wine grapes. Riesling grapes take up a quarter of that area, while Spätburgunder (the German name for pinot noir) is the most dominant red wine grape. Contrary to popular opinion, Riesling is not always sweet; it ranges in flavor depending on where it is grown. Other top white wines are Müller-Thurgau, Gewürtztraminer, and Silvaner (similar to pinot gris). Dark and fruity Dornfelder, lightly structured Blauer Portugieser, light and slightly acidic Trollinger, and moderately tannic Lemberger are some of the most popular red wines. See also our Guide to German Wines
Contrast, or not
More acidic wines pair well with creamy cheeses, but if your favorite creamy cheese also has pronounced tangy or sour notes, choose a semi-dry or sweet wine wine instead. A cheese with fruity notes matches well with a fruity wine, and the harder the cheese, the more tannin content you can have in the accompanying wine.
Red or white?
While it might seem surprising, red wines are not always the best option for cheese pairings. Reds often have a more subdued flavor profile than white wines, and those subtle flavors can be overpowered by strong cheeses. 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.”
Trust your taste:
If you like a certain pairing, it’s a good bet that your guests will as well. Do you have an all-time favorite cheese? Try it with a few 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? Experiment to see what works best for you.
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.
A few pairing suggestions by type of cheese:
Hard cheeses (in German: Schnittkäse): Allgäuer Bergkäse, Allgäuer Emmentaler. 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.
Semi-hard cheese (in German: halbfester Hartkäse): Holsteiner Tilsit, Hüttenkäse Appenzeller, Gouda. There are lots of possible pairings here, depending 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 cheese (in German: Blauschimmelkäse): Bavaria Blue, Cambozola. Because of their stronger flavors, blues require a careful pairing. Your best choice is a sweet wine with a hint of acidity; these cheeses also pair well with dessert wines, ports, and sherries.
Soft,creamy cheese (in German: Weichkäse): Altenburger goat cheese, Odenwälder Frühstückskäse, Bavarian Brie, Bavarian Camembert. For young cheeses, select a fresh, fruity wine. For riper varieties or those with herbs or other additions, choose a medium to complex white wine that will match the more intensive cheese aromas.
Sour Milk Cheese (in German: Sauermilchkäse): Hessischer Handkäse, Harzer Käse. These cheeses have a pronounced pungent smell and aromatic flavor. They are a perfect match for young white wines, like Federweisse or young Beaujolais.
Soft, fresh cheese (in German: Frischkäse): Hüttenkäse, Quark. Complement the fresh flavors with dry or semi-dry Riesling, try Champagne, or Prosecco: or even consider a Gewurztraminer or a late-harvested sweet wine (Spätlese)
German wine, cheese and charcuterie pairings
|Cheese||White wine||Red wine||Charcuterie|
|Soft cheeses (like Bavarian Brie or Camembert)||Dry to semi-dry Riesling, young Grauburgunder||Spätburgunder, Trollinger||Black Forest Schinken|
|Soft cheese with washed rind (like Limburger)||Dry Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Silvaner||Dornfelder||“Touristenwurst” salami|
|Fresh cheese (like Quark)||Silvaner, Weißburgunder, Bacchus||Schwarzriesling||Tyrolian Jagdwurst|
|Blue cheese (like Cambozola)||Beerenauslese, Eiswein||Cabernet Sauvignon||Honey Bourbon Salami Whips|
|Goat cheese (like Altenburger Ziegenkäse)||Silvaner, Weißburgunder, Riesling||Portugieser||Landjäger Salami|
|Semi-hard cheese (like Tilsiter)||Weißburgunder, semi-dry Riesling; Gewurztraminer for stronger varieties||Regent||Gelbwurst with Parsley|
|Hard cheese (like Allgäuer Emmentaler)||Kerner, Riesling||Lemburger, Dornfelder||Swiss Bündnerfleisch (pure beef Schinken)|