Wine and cheese together are, to many people, a perfect paring. Even that party favourite from the 1970s, the fondue is making a comeback. Aficionados are in no doubt; the whole experience of matching wine and cheese can be seriously enhanced when the two blend well together. There are useful charts available that will help you and here are five top tips.
Don’t overcomplicate your cheeseboard.
Rather than trying to please everyone by having a large selection of cheeses available, go for quality over quantity. Spend the money you have on sourcing the best cheeses you can. This will make the task of choosing a suitable wine much easier.
Remember – fortified wines can be your saviour.
If you really haven’t the time to do your research, let alone your shopping, a great fall-back is to offer Sherry, a good Port or Madeira with your cheese selection. For some of the pairings the match might not be quite as perfect as one made in heaven, but it will be pretty close. You will find that the fortified wine goes very well with things like the chutney and pickles that go with your cheese. If fortified wine isn’t an option for you full bodied Chardonnay will go equally well with most cheeses.
Choose your wine and cheese from the same region.
This is another good general rule that will serve the novice cheese and wine matcher well. The locals know a thing or too and cheese makers invariably make cheese that go well with wines from the area. Fix.com has some helpful information. Grenache and Manchengo is a good example of cheese and wine from the same area going well together. Goats’ cheese from the Loire Valley and Sauvignon Blanc is another. Wines direct has some great examples of these two wines available.
Who’s the star?
Decide what the main attraction will be, the cheese or the wine. Whichever you decide, the other has to play an important supporting role without overpowering the characteristics of the star. Hard cheeses, such as Cheddar, Comte and Parmesan match well with wines with a high tannin content, such as medium bodied reds and full bodied dry whites. Generally speaking, the higher the ABV of the wine, 14.5% and above, the better it will go with cheeses aged for a year or more. This is because the high tannin content of the wine helps to moderate the high fat content of the cheese, caused by the loss of water overtime. For more subtly flavoured cheeses, you will get a good balance with wines of less than 12% ABV.
Blue, sparkling and nutty.
For blue cheeses with a creamy profile a sweet wine like Sauternes help bring out the contrasting qualities of sweetness and salt in the cheese. Sparkling wines are high in acidity and carbonation which work well together as palate cleansers and are particularly effective when eating cheeses with a high fat content, such as Camembert and Munster. Finally, if in doubt, you will do well to choose a cheese with a distinctive nutty flavour. It will have enough personality to knock the edge of excessive tannin but be light enough to compliment the qualities of a lighter white.