Learning the Secrets Behind Wine & Cheese Pairing

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Article By: Calphalon Team
Originally Published: 5/25/2011

Learning the Secrets Behind Wine & Cheese Pairing

What’s better to serve with wine than cheese? For centuries these favorites have gone hand in hand. Both are products of fermentation and can be enjoyed while young, fresh and soft or aged, mature and more complex. Although taste is a personal preference, there are some general guidelines you can follow to help each one enhance the flavors of the other, creating a delicious culinary and wine experience.

Achieve a Good Pairing

One of the easiest ways to achieve a good pairing is to select cheese and wine that share similar taste characteristics. Consider the cheese, and then choose a wine that exhibits the same basic taste characteristics. Some examples:

  • A light, young, mild and creamy cheese such as fresh goat cheese is delicious with a light, mild and delicate wine like an unoaked Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, dry Rose or a Beaujolais.
  • Italian Chianti pairs well with nutty Parmesan, or a red Cote du Rhone with the chestnut-leaf-wrapped goat cheese, Banon from Provence.

Contrasting Flavors

Contrasting the flavors in wine and cheese can also create good matches. Some classic pairings include:

  • Salty Roquefort cheese and Sauternes
  • Port and English Stilton

A white wine that seems too acidic on its own is often fabulous with creamy cheeses, as the acid reduces the fattiness of the cheese while the cheese tempers the acid. A great example of this is Fondue. Crisp, dry, fruity wines such as a Chardonnay or even a dry Pinot Grigio are typically served – a refreshing counterpoint to the richness of the cheese. Another great contrast to try is a brisk, grassy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with a triple cream cheese such as luscious St. Andre. The crisp, tart grapefruit taste of the wine is softened by the 75% butterfat of the cheese.

Often you can apply both complementary and contrasting pairing to the same cheese. Take a perennial favorite such as smoked Gouda. A Shiraz from Australia will complement the strong flavors of the cheese, while an off-dry Gewurtztraminer would contrast the cheese by calming the flavors and enhancing the richness.

Something for Everyone

Both cheese and wine come in all aromas, textures and flavors. No matter what cheese and wine pairings you create, remember to trust your palate - taste is a personal preference. Don’t be afraid to experiment. There are plenty of interesting cheeses out there just waiting for a glass of wine. Choose several cheeses and several wines and mix them up. You will find a pairing that is best for you and another for someone else. While some matches may work better than others, each will be unique, and a fun learning experience. Grab a glass and some cheese and let’s get started.