What Wine With Cheese?
If you’ve ever followed the ‘red wine with cheese’ view, and wondered why either the cheese or the wine didn’t taste up to scratch, that’s because it doesn’t always work like that! There are hundreds, probably thousands of different cheeses, of all different styles, shapes, sizes, provenance and taste,with wildly differing flavours, and no one wine is going to match them all. So keep an open mind, experiment and follow these simple guidelines:
Goats Cheese – this fresh, yet pungent style of cheese, needs a vibrant, crisp white to match. The Loire valley produces lots of fantastic goats cheese, which is always served with a fresh, Sauvignon blanc. This is the best match, for almost all goats cheeses, be it a French or a New World Sauvignon; a sublime match; other crisp whites, such as Spanish Rueda Verdejo also work well.
Soft cheeses, eg Camembert, Brie – the rind on these cheeses can make a lot of red wines taste very ‘tinny’, so if you opt for red, go for a soft, juicy one such as Chilean or French Pinot Noir, a lively Dolcetto, or a ripe Loire Cabernet Franc; my favourites with this type of cheese are fresh, creamy, unoaked, or mildly oaked white, such as a ripe Macon Villages, or a fresh northern Italian Chardonnay. Sauvignon blanc also works. Remember, the stronger the flavour, the bolder and bigger the wine will need to be.
Washed rind and ‘smelly’ cheeses – avoid firm reds, as the tannins will clash. Here you need full-flavoured aromatic whites, such as Pinot blanc, Riesling, or Viognier, to cope with the powerful aromas and flavours. These cheeses often have a sweet edge, and the off-dry aromatic styles of wine cope best – an absolute classic is the powerful combination of Alsace Gewurztraminer with one of the most delicious, but smelliest cheeses in the world, Munster! If you insist on red, go for soft, low tannin ones, such as Beaujolais.
Cheddar and other hard cheeses – this is where red wine really comes into its own,and again, match the intensity of the wine to the power of the cheese; cotes du Rhone, good Bordeaux, Rioja, New World Shiraz, and good Chianti Classico all work with cheddar, manchego, Lancashire, gouda, etc. For Parmesan, try a good Amarone also.
Blue Cheese – these intense, powerful cheeses, with their combination of sweet and salty flavours need strong, sweet wines; port is the traditional partner, but be adventurous and try new combinations; Roquefort and sauternes is a classic match, but Madeira, and rich Muscat dessert wines also work.