Has there ever been a more perfect union than that of wine and cheese? Their marriage dates back hundreds of years to since become a highly intricate and nuanced culinary art. As far as wine and food pairings go, there is scarcely another relationship so studied and refined as wine and cheese. The origins of wine and cheese pairings are smattered with legends, old adages and historical moments. Combinations of wine and cheese have a huge regional influence and sommeliers have noted that cheeses and wines from the same region tend to complement each other best. Yet picking cheese to go with wine can be daunting at best. After all there are hundreds of cheese and wine varieties. These are just a few ways to pair your cheese and wine. Note that there are exceptions to these rules, but this is the perfect way to start.
As mentioned before, wine and cheese have had a huge influence on each other based on where they’re from. This is due to area conditions like weather, climate, soil, water quality, available nutrients and culture. Livestock that produce milk are exposed to the same elements as the wine grapes and thus have a complementary relationship. Over hundreds of years, wine makers and cheesemongers observed the changing culinary tastes of the people around them and vice versa. Fresh food from all over the world wasn’t just a click away, so people used what they had to make the dishes we know and love today. Try pairing Italian Chianti with Parmigiano Reggiano and French Rosé with Provencal-seasoned cheese.
When in doubt, pair wines and cheese based on the body of the wine. The body of the wine describes the weight of the wine on the palate. Light bodied wines like Champagne and Prosecco are bubbly and lite on the palette, while Nebbiolo and Malbec are full-bodied and syrupy. The body is determined by the alcohol content, which is indicated by its level of opacity and viscosity. The more full-bodied the wine, the richer it tends to be.
Pairing cheese based on the body of the wine depends on personal taste. Typically, light wines go well with fresh and subtle cheeses, while firmer cheeses taste best with medium to full-bodied wines. It’s easy to pick a Chardonnay with a strong citrus flavor and pair it with fresh goat cheese, or Cabernet Sauvignon with aged Gouda.
Start with Your Favorite Wine or Cheese
Perhaps the simplest way to choose a wine and cheese is to go with your favorite. Love the sweet taste of your birthday wine bottle of Riesling? Try it with the bold flavors of blue cheese. In the mood for brie cheese? Go with Chardonnay. If you pick your favorite wine or cheese first, you’re already halfway there to a delicious dish.
Ask a Cheesemonger
If you have any questions, a cheesemonger has you covered. Peruse an artisanal cheese shop or hunt down a cheesemonger at your local farmer’s market and get the answers you need. Since cheese and wine go hand in hand, a cheesemonger will be able to tell you all you need to know about your cheese pairing questions. Like wineries, cheesemongers offer tastings and will help you understand the relationship between cheese and wine.
4 Types of Cheese
There are hundreds of different kinds of cheese but they can be categorized into four parts.
Bloomy - These are creamy cheeses with a soft rind. Bloomy cheeses include brie, camembert, and robiola.
Hard - These cheeses are tougher and generally have stronger flavors than other cheeses. Gouda, cheddar, Parmigiano Reggiano, asiago and fontina are all examples of hard cheeses.
Blue - Love it or hate it, blue cheese is an excellent pair for some wines. They don’t look appetizing to some, but Roquefort, gorgonzola and stilton are just a few of the tasty cheeses that go well with sweeter wines.
Fresh - Fresh cheeses are mild, soft and usually spreadable. Popular examples of fresh cheese include fresh chevré, cream cheese, cottage cheese, paneer and curd cheese.
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