Pairing Tips: Cheese and White Wine

January 17, 2024

There’s no need to over-complicate the age-old indulgence of cheese and wine, but these simple insights will help you get the most enjoyment out of both your cheese and your wine.

From: The Telegraph by Andy Bloxham

Professional tasters say would-be gastronomes have been getting it wrong for decades by continuing to drink red wine after the main course.

They says reds, which are generally more strongly flavoured than whites, dominate all but the most robust cheese. Instead, white wines should be drunk because they are more versatile and will complement a far greater range of cheese.

Whites should also be considered for foods traditionally matched with reds, such as game, fish and turkey.

Among the cheeses often associated with red wine are blues such as roquefort and creamy cheese such as camembert. However, the creaminess of the cheese is drowned out by the flavour of tannin in the reds, the bitter compound squeezed from the seeds, skin and stalks of the grapes.

To enjoy the cheeses’ flavours and avoid wasting your money, experts say hosts should broaden their horizons.

Stephen Williams, the founder of The Antique Wine Company, which has provided wine for US presidents, said: “Basically, you should never have any kind of creamy cheese with red wine. It’s just a no-no. But the matching issue is wider than that: white wines generally go better with almost every type of cheese.”

Sweeter styles of white wine such as sauternes pair best with blue cheese such as roquefort, as the drink enhances its saltiness, he said.

The pleasantly acidic taste of a German riesling offers a counterpoint to the tangy nuttiness of a parmigiano-reggiano, while the “grass” or “mineral” flavours of French sauvignon blanc can also deliver beautiful flavours when matched with goats’ cheese. However, the bolder, more melon-like flavours of sauvignon from South America or New Zealand tend to be too strong for this effect.

Whites which have been “oaked”, left in oak barrels to absorb the wood’s flavour, should generally be avoided with cheese, Mr Williams said.

Susy Atkins, a wine writer, demonstrated the best matches at a recent tasting. “A big tannic red simply doesn’t go with a soft, creamy cheese,” she said. “The balance and texture is all wrong. Successful cheese and wine matching is all about balance. It is not about contrast.”

Experts say that sometimes whites should be served with other foods traditionally associated with red wine and the other way around.

Riesling also makes a good match for game such as venison and wild boar, while sea bass is complemented by pinot noir from Burgundy or New Zealand. Research by Decanter magazine concluded that turkey was best complemented by white burgundy.

If you must serve a red wine with the cheese course, you should invest in an older and usually more expensive wine, such as a rioja at least five years old, as time will have softened the flavours of the tannin. But it will still need to be served with a strong cheese such as cheddar.

Port and stilton should remain on the menu but instead of the widespread ruby ports, diners should try the lighter tawny ones.


What are your favorite wine and cheese pairings?

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