Wine and Cheese
Today we are talking about one of the most famous pairing that everyone loves: wine and cheese. Even without being an expert I am sure we all know and have tried how well they go together. It really is a match made in heaven. I am sure that the first question that comes to your mind is probably: “There are so many different types of wines and cheeses. How do you choose between all the different types?” Well as always the beauty is that there are no written rules on what must be done and this leaves a lot of room to experimenting and exploring, but today we are going to try and give some basic examples on where to start. If you have not read our wine and food pairing guide, I would encourage you to take a look since it provides some useful detail about basic food and wine pairing techniques that we will be referring to in this article.
One of the first important things to know is what cheese is. Cheese is derived from milk and it is formed by coagulation of milk proteins that are separated and then pressed into final form. Many types of milk can be used in the production, but some of the most common are cow, buffalo, goat, and sheep. The starting milk, the way the cheese made and then aged all influence the final taste. As always it is important to identify the main characteristic in the cheese that we want to highlight. If this still seams difficult to understand think about these three examples: fresh goat cheese, parmigiano and blue cheese. I think this represent very well how big of a difference there can be between the styles and types. If we were to make a pairing with fresh goat cheese I would say that the main characteristic to focus on is the acidity of that cheese. Talking about the parmigiano instead, the saltiness and savory character are definitely the key component. Finally if we are talking about the blue cheese, I would say that the sharpness of the flavors and creaminess are the main element to keep in mind. If you focus on the key element you cannot go wrong and pairing a wine becomes way easier. Regardless of what cheese you are pairing it is very important to select good quality products. When there are only a few elements making the dish (like in this case only one), it is very important that it is fresh and well made, so do not be afraid of spending a little more on it, I promise it will be worth the experience. Let us see how we can pair a wine with each one of these examples we just talk about.
1. Fresh Goat Cheese
As we mentioned, the acidity is definitely the main characteristic in this case and using the complementary rule we could select a wine that is more acidic than the cheese. One of the best examples I can think of is a nice Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre. Bright, acidic and crisp with an excellent mineral structure. I know it might sound strange and weird to pair something acidic with something more acidic, but believe me when I say that this specific pairing is amazing. I have tried it many times and everyone is always shocked by how good it is. A little addition is to have also some fresh pear slices. This is really a treat.
This is in my opinion one of the best cheeses to pair with wine in general so if you have not tried it yet, please do. As I mentioned above it is very important to choose good quality ingredients and especially with this type of cheese there are so many different options, but if you want to try the original look for the “Parmigiano Reggiano”. It is going to be a little more expensive, but it is the only and original Parmesan cheese from the town of Reggio in Italy. Now back to the wine, in this case we can use two different techniques. If we go with the same place of origin, I would recommend to select a dry Lambrusco from Emilia Romagna. This is the traditional wine from the region where Parmigiano is made and just goes amazingly well with it. If you do not live in Europe it might be difficult to get this type of wine, so you can use the contrasting flavor technique and select a nice Beaujolais Villages that has a nice fruit forward flavor and a soft mineral component. The fruit will balance the saltiness of the cheese.
3. Blue Cheese
This is another one of my favorite cheeses to pair with wine. There are obviously many different types of blue cheese, but in essence they all have a common characteristic that is the sharpness of flavor and the creamy structure. In this case I am pointing out the structure because it is important to consider that as well when selecting the wine so that is does not disappear in the mix. In this case I would like to suggest the contrasting technique and select a Tawny Port possibly with some age to it (10 years will be perfect). In this case the pairing works because the port has a higher alcohol content than normal wines so it matches the intensity of the cheese and the thick consistency balances the creaminess. Finally the sweetness contrasts the sharpness of the cheese bringing out all of the secondary flavor of both. This is really a pairing made in heaven.
I hope you enjoyed this article and as always if you have questions, I will be more than happy to answer.