We have fondue, triple cream, and stinky blues lined up for your next glass of wine. Check out these modern variations on classic wine and cheese pairings, then dig into the details below for specific wine and cheese recommendations.
Wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Zinfandel match up well with equally intense cheeses. Match them with a cheese that’s firm and a bit salty, perhaps with tyrosine crystals. You’ll find that the cheese will be best enjoyed in small bite-sized pieces over grilled bread.
Cabernet Sauvignon does well with aged cheddars and peppery cheeses.
Emphasize the tobacco notes in Shiraz with a smokey cheese.
Candied and fruity Garnacha wines are a complimentary match to a 4 month Spanish Manchego.
Every wine is unique. Is your wine dry and spicy? Smooth out rigid tannins and bracing acidity with a slightly less firm cheese. The fat content will compliment the tannin and the texture will absorb high acidity. For example: a 5 month aged Bra Duro with Barolo. Learn about the basic characteristics in wine to fine tune your own pairings.
Light red wines like Pinot Noir and Beaujolais match up nicely with delicately flavored, washed rind cheeses and nutty, medium-firm cheeses. Gruyere is a great example of a nutty cheese and Taleggio is a semi-soft, washed rind cheese that is not overly intense. If you enjoy a softer style, try a soft ripened cheese like brie or camembert.
A good rule of thumb to follow is, “the funkier the wine – the funkier the cheese.” A very rustic wine will do wonders when matched with an odoriferous cheese and a sweet berry wine will beg for a cheese that’s well… cheesy.
White wines typically match with a much wider array of cheeses than reds. This is because white wines are devoid of tannin making it much easier to match them together. If there’s one cheese that doesn’t match up too well with many white wines, it would be blue cheese. It tends to overwhelm. Here are a few classic pairings to consider:
In the Loire Valley, where Sauvignon Blanc originates, you can find many goat herds. The goat cheeses from the Loire aren’t as soft or as fresh as goat cheese found in the US. French goat cheeses tend to be firmer with a chalk-like taste texture due to high calcium content. As they age, the cheese develops a spiciness that will match up fantastically with a Sauvignon Blanc or an unoaked Chardonnay (the Loire makes a few of these too!). Check out cheeses like Crottin de Chavignol or Humboldt Fog as great options for a white wine cheese.
Around Veneto, you’ll find vineyards of Garganega (‘gar-GAN-neg-uh’) which make the wines of Soave. Soave is crisp, like Sauvignon Blanc, with a slightly bitter almond note on the finish. The bitterness in this wine makes it a fascinating match with a young asiago (that’s not too firm). The aged versions of Asiago go surprisingly well with a fruity, off-dry Prosecco or Moscato d’Asti.
Off-dry styles of Riesling, such as a German Riesling from the Mosel, match up wonderfully with fondue. The sweetness and acidity compliment the nutty robust fondue flavors and make everything taste delicately sweet and salty. Hungry yet?
Chardonnay tends to grow better in slightly cooler climates where it develops complex, floral and fruity smells that compliment oak-aged flavors of vanilla and toffee. Interestingly enough, washed-rind cow’s cheeses (like Époisses de Bourgogne) are made in the same regions where Chardonnay grows. They are a bit stinky with a pungent flavor from a mold developing on the rind of the cheese. Usually, you can identify them by their wrinkly orange rind. When matched with Chardonnay, the stinkiness goes away! Examples of this style of cheese include Époisses de Bourgogne, Good Thunder (Alemar, seriously funky) and Red Hawk (Cow Girl Creamery). If you are a stinky cheese wuss, opt for a traditional triple cream cow’s cheese such as Delice de Bourgogne, Brie or a fresh style Tomme.
Think your palate is good enough to be a professional sensory analyst?
The cheese course is still served at the end of a meal at a proper dinner in Europe (even after dessert). Perhaps there’s a method to this madness, because it’s one of the most inspired pairings known to cheese. Even the most pungent blue cheese transforms when matched with a vintage port.
The older the vintage port, the stinkier the blue cheese you can get. What happens as Vintage Port ages is the tannins soften and the acidity lessens revealing a much sweeter tasting wine. The sweetness of dessert wines compliment and shape a stinky cheese.