Cheese & Wine

There are no hard and fast rules when pairing cheese and wines - much depends on your personal likes and dislikes. Good cheese and wine pairings do take some thought, and it's important to consider the texture and flavor profiles of both the cheese and wine before making final selections. Remember, the goal is to create harmony and balance between the wine and the cheese and not overpower one with the other.

  • Keep pairings simple: pick one distinct wine and one distinct cheese that pair well. For example, full-flavored cheeses, such as creamy washed rind cheeses require medium to full-bodied wines, such as Merlot, Zinfandel, or Syrahs. Likewise, pair light cheeses with light wines, such as Rieslings, Pinot Gris, or Pinot Noirs.

  • Pair wine and cheese according to the area of origin or even the local region. Just as the growing conditions impart particular characteristics (called 'terroir') on a region's wines, these same characteristics may be imparted in the cheeses, through the vegetation on which the animals graze. This applies more when pairing European wines and cheeses, than American products.

  • Do not limit yourself to only still table wines, but branch out and try sparkling wines, late harvest and sweet wines, as well as fortified wines such as sherries and ports. In particular, blue cheeses pair extremely well with late harvest Viogniers and Rieslings and Muscat wines. Also, creamy cheeses pair well with sparkling wines and Champagne, as the bubbles help to cleanse the palate and refresh it for another bite.

  • Try pairing varieties of cheeses based on their sources of milk. For example, fresh goat cheeses are mild, lemony, and somewhat acidic in their flavor profiles, and creamy in texture. They pair well with crisp white wines, such as a Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris, and especially Rieslings. Aged sheep's milk cheeses pair well with Gewurtztraminers and fruity Zinfandels, and aged cow's milk cheddars go well with sherries.

  • Remember that wines aren't the only beverages that go well with cheese. There are an ever-growing number of artisanal and craft beers, as well as craft ciders available these days that create interesting and fresh flavor combinations, which can also inspire you to experiment and broaden your culinary knowledge.

The All American Cheese and Wine Book by Laura Werlin is an excellent resource of information about American cheese and wine pairing.

(Based on information from the website of the American Cheese Society.)


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