Wine and Cheese – A marriage of two heavens

Most of us love wine and cheese at the end of a meal and for those who do not have a palate equipped for desserts, can be a welcome end to a dinner party rather than something sticky and cloyingly sweet. The big question is – what wine should we drink with which type of cheese and are there any guidelines to pairing the two together?

The key lies in matching the elements of the cheese and its production method, with a wine of the right acidity levels, boldness or grassiness in order for both partners to achieve optimum taste on the tongue and for neither to drown the other one out. Any good cheese vendor or wine merchant should certainly be able to assist you with this, but valuable information from a hands-on Wine and Cheese Course such as those we run will give you more in depth instruction in the art of pairing the two together. Unless a specific tasting is conducted at your local merchant or supermarket, you will not have a greater opportunity to savour and learn from our specialist instructors, most of whom are serious ‘raconteurs’ as well! A selection of artisanal cheeses are accompanied by a suitable wine match and the reasons why these should provide a perfect partnership.

The biggest myth created many years ago was that cheese had to be paired with red wine or port, a story now completely demolished by wine experts throughout the world. European directives state that cheese is better matched with white wine than red, a fact that is upheld by those in the wine and cheese industry, due to the versatility of white wines. There are however, a couple of exceptions to this rule.

There are somewhere between 400-500 different cheeses throughout the world and these are categorised in several ways:

  • Natural vs. Processed
  • Unripened vs. Ripened
  • Soft vs. Hard

Some cheeses are also named by their place of origin, such as Cheddar. Examples of unripened are soft cheeses such as cottage cheese, cream cheese or a Neufchatel. Ripened cheeses are aged by bacteria or mould – Cheddar, Swiss and Parmesan are examples of bacteria-ripened cheese and Blue, Roquefort, Camembert and Brie are examples of mould-ripened cheeses. Camembert and Brie are also examples of a soft cheese, whereas Blue, Feta, Mozzarella and Meunster fall into the semi-soft category. Hard cheeses are easier to identify, such as Cheddar, Edam, Gouda.

Matching wine and cheese is of course, like any other food pairings, a matter of taste, but we list here some suggested complimentary cheese and wines. As a rule of thumb, matching wine and cheese is all about balance, and not about contrast. The texture of the cheese must always be taken into consideration as should the tannin levels in the wine – hence white wines pair better with creamy, soft textured cheeses, whereas an aged Rioja where the tannin has mellowed over the years is perfectly acceptable with a strong, mature cheddar.

To find out more, why not book a place on our Wine and Cheese Pairing Masterclass here