Hosting a get-together with friends and looking for something simple and satisfying to serve them ? You cannot go wrong with a thoughtfully arranged cheese board paired with a well-chosen bottle of wine. But cheeses (and wines) come in a wide range of styles, textures and flavor profiles and finding the perfect wine and cheese pairing can pose a challenge. To help you create mouthwatering pairings, we have put together a quick guide, featuring some of our favorite cheese styles and the wines with which to enjoy them.
The most delicate style of cheese is a soft, rindless fresh cheese that has not been aged and thus sports a mild, sometimes slightly tangy flavor. These cheeses tend to go best with dry or off-dry white wines, rosé or light-bodied, fruity red wines with a low degree of alcohol. Pair fresh mozzarella, burrata or ricotta with a bright Pinot Grigio from northern Italy, a rosé from Cotes de Provence or a fruity Cabernet Franc from Chinon. A slightly briny, salty cheese like feta or fresh goat cheese will go nicely with an off-dry, aromatic white like a Riesling from Germany or the Finger Lakes.
One of the most indulgent cheese styles, this category focuses on cheeses with white bloomy rinds and creamy interiors. The perfect wine pairing will be one with enough acidity to balance their rich, creamy texture. The subtle mushroom aromas and buttery texture of Brie will go best with a dry, traditional-method sparkling wine, like a Brut Champagne or Cava. Meanwhile a slightly pungent, earthy Camembert will pair nicely with an unoaked, mineral Chardonnay from Chablis or Barbera d’Alba from Piedmont. And for a classic regional pairing, try Crottin de Chavignol (a tangy, spreadable goat cheese) with Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre.
Cheeses whose rind has been washed in a kind of brine, wine or beer tend to be slightly funky, gamy and pungent in flavor. We recommend pairing a rich, grassy Reblochon cheese with a floral Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley or chilled red wine from Jura. The yeasty nuances of a Taleggio could go well with a sparkling wine, while a pungent Munster cheese will marry beautiful with an aromatic Gewurztraminer from Alsace. And finally, a funky, buttery Epoisses cheese will shine brightest with an earthy, complex red wine, like an aged Pinot Noir from Burgundy.
One of the most diverse cheese styles, semi-soft cheeses fall somewhere between spreadable creamy soft cheeses and brittle, crumbly hard cheeses. One of our favorites is the very versatile Gruyere, which pairs nicely with fuller-bodied white wines with a touch of oak, such as a Viognier from Condrieu or a Meursault. The mild, nutty flavor of a young Gouda could go nicely with the rustic, garrigue nuances of an unoaked Cotes du Rhone red. Pair Edam, Morbier and Havarti with a young Chianti or an unoaked red wine from Roussillon.
As cheeses age they tend to lose moisture, resulting in a brittle, crumbly texture and more concentrated, complex flavors. Pair these cheeses with bolder, spicier, more complex red wines with a bit of age on them or with an equally nuanced Sherry. A nutty, sharp aged cheddar cheese, for example, will go beautifully with a full-bodied Bordeaux wine from Margaux or Saint-Estephe. A great regional pairing is a gamy, tangy Pecorino with a classic Sangiovese from Tuscany. A nutty Parmesan could go nicely with Nebbiolo from Piedmont, while a Manchego will go best with a Palo Cortado sherry from Spain.
Dessert wines truly shine brightest when paired with the funkiest, most pungent of cheese types: blue cheese. Pair a classic sheep-milk Roquefort with a sweet wine from Sauternes or Barsac, typically a blend of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle. The slightly sweet nuttiness and salty flavors of a Gorgonzola will pair nicely with a dessert wine made from dried grapes, like a Recioto della Valpolicella or a noble rot wine, such as a Beerenauslese Riesling from Germany. And finally, a dense, peppery, funky Stilton will match perfectly with a fortified wine, such as Port.
One of the greatest pleasures of the culinary world, cheese comes in hundreds (if not thousands) of different styles, offering infinite wine and cheese pairing opportunities. When searching for the perfect wine to pair with your cheese, consider the characteristics of the latter and remember a few general rules of thumb: Milder cheeses will go with lighter-bodied, fruitier wines with lower alcohol, while more intensely flavored cheeses will stand up to fuller-bodied, bolder wines with higher alcohol. Creamier, fattier cheeses will balance beautifully with wines that have a high degree of natural acidity, especially a sparkling wine. And for a cheese with a nutty, salty, funky profile choose a dessert whose sweetness will counteract these flavors, lulling the palate into a dreamy state of harmony.