For hundreds of years, sommeliers and wine drinkers alike have paired wine with cheese. In honor of National Wine and Cheese Day, we take a look at some tips on how to choose the best cheese to compliment your wine and the most common pairings. We also talk with the owner of a popular Traverse City cheese shop about her process when it comes to pairing wine with her delicious cheese.
Experts with winefolly.com recommend remembering these six things when it comes to finding the right cheese to compliment your wine:
Tip #1: Pair wines and cheeses with equal intensity. When drinking a wine with 14.5% ABV and above, remember they are more intense and taste better with more intensely flavored cheeses. Wines with 12% ABV and under tend to pair well with a more delicate flavored cheese.
Tip #2: Bold red wines pair best with aged cheeses. The longer a cheese ages, the richer in flavor with increased fat content it becomes. These attributes are ideal for matching it with a bold red wine because the fat content in the cheese counteracts the high-tannins in the wine.
Tip #3: Match super funky cheeses with sweeter wines. Wine experts say sweeter wines like Moscato, Gewürztraminer, Late Harvest dessert wines, and Port would pair very well with stinky, washed-rind, and blue-veined cheeses. This is because the sweetness in the wine helps balance the “funk” in the cheese and makes it seem creamier. The “stink” of the cheese also helps balance the sweet taste of the wine.
Tip #4: Sparkling wines are incredible with soft, creamy cheeses. Since sparkling wines are high in acidity and carbonation, you would want to lean toward creamy, sticky cheeses such as Brie, Muenster, Camembert, Cremont, or Époisses de Bourgogne. Wine experts say this is because the carbonation offers a palate-cleansing effect.
Tip #5: Wines and cheese from the same place pair well together. If you happen to have wine and cheese from the same region, most likely, they will match each other perfectly. Experts say a few examples of this are Sauvignon Blanc with Goat Cheese (Loire Valley, France), Chardonnay with Époisses de Bourgogne (Burgundy, France), and Garnacha with Manchego (Spain).
Tip #6 When in doubt, get a firm, nutty cheese. If you are planning to serve several different wines at your next party, and you’re not sure which cheese would pair well, experts suggest picking a firm, nutty cheese. This type of cheese has enough fat to counterbalance tannin in red wine, but enough delicacy to compliment delicate whites. Some examples are Swiss, Gruyère, Abbaye de Belloc, Comté Extra, Emmental, and Gouda.
(The above image is a collection of wines and the types of cheese they would pair well with. Credit: www.winefolly.com)
There are so many types of cheese in the world so there are three different directions you can go in when finding the right one to enjoy with your wine. Kim Fish, the Manager for The Cheese Lady in Traverse City explains the three directions as wine and cheese that have similar flavor lines, pair cheese with big flavor to stand up to a wine with big flavor, or pair a cheese with wine to change it.
If you ask someone what cheese pairs well with red wines, white wines, and sparkling wines, you would probably get a different answer from everyone you asked. Fish says she likes to pair most red wines with aged goudas and blue cheese, mild semi soft anything with most white wines and a nice brie with most sparkling wines. “I find that it is more about whether the wine is sweet, dry, acidic, etc. than it is red, white or bubbly. Acid likes fat, sweet likes sweet and dry likes dry,” says Fish.
It’s been said “If it grows together, it goes together.” This is usually true when it comes to pairing cheese with wine but as Fish explains, it isn’t always the case. In her experience, it isn’t always where the wine comes from that makes it easier or more difficult to pair with. In her opinion, rose is the hardest style of wine to pair cheese with.
Michigan is what wine experts consider a cool climate wine growing region which makes our wines tend to have higher acidity and often more fruit forward with lower alcohol. When asked if this changes her approach when pairing cheese with a Michigan made wine, Fish explains it doesn’t necessarily change her approach but some of the “classic” pairings don’t always work for Michigan wines because of the french grape grown.
Fish explains there are a few favorite cheeses that go well with all Northern Michigan wines. Those include:
- Young (3 month) Manchego. It is mild, slightly creamy sheep’s milk cheese.
- Vlaskaas. A medium aged gouda from the Netherlands. It is creamy yet nutty like an aged gouda.
- Prairie Breeze. A cheddar made in Iowa that has parm culture added to it. It is an aged cheddar with nice crystalling.
If you are looking to pair Aurora Cellars wine with a delicious cheese for your next party, take a look at these recommendations from Tina at The Cheese Lady:
Blaufränkisch and Honeybee. A goat gouda made with a drizzle of honey added to pure goat milk for a cashew-like nutty sweetness.The drizzle of honey found in the cheese compliments the spicy pepper notes found in the Blaufrankisch.
Leora and Piave Vecchio. Veneto, in northern Italy is the home of this wonderful table cheese. This dense and sweet cheese is made with cow’s milk and lets off an almost almondy taste. The dense and sweet taste of the cheese compliments the lightly spiced apple tart aromas in the Leora to help you celebrate the moment.
Late Harvest Vignoles and Vlaskaas. This is a harvest gouda made from cow’s milk originating from Holland. While it is aged, it is still creamy and sweet. It pairs excellent with all wines dry or sweet. The Vlaskaas’ creamy sweetness brings out the slight honey finish found in the Late Harvest Vignoles.
When planning your next party visit Aurora Cellars and The Cheese Lady to find the perfect wine and cheese pairings. Your guests will thank you!