Whether you’re stocking up for a party or just looking for a new tasting experience, these classic regional pairings will highlight why certain wines and certain cheeses have a kind of soul-mate connection that is hard to ignore.
Cheese and wine are best friends because…
If you think of your palate and taste sensations as a giant spectrum, cheese and wine would be located on completely opposite ends. Despite being served side-by side for centuries, the two really have very little in common. However, the opposing tastes of fat and protein (cheese) vs acidity and tannin (wine) are why the two foods pair together so well. In fact, the primary characteristics in wine (tannin and acidity) have been shown to scrape off fatty proteins from the tongue, making wine an ideal palate cleanser for protein-rich foods.
On Pairing with Brie, Tomme, and other Creamy Cheeses
Délice de Bourgogne and Pouilly-Fuissé
Burgundy, France: Pouilly-Fuissé is Chardonnay from the Mâconnais region, which is located in the southern part of Burgundy. These wines focus on Chardonnay’s more fruity notes of apple, passion fruit, and lemon, and are produced without oak aging. With their high natural acidity, they work wonders with the regional ooey-gooey Délice de Bourgogne cheese.
Cheeses: Brie de Meaux, Camembert, Reblochon, Pont l’Eveque, Tomme de Savoie, Triple Cream Cheese, Brillat Savarin, Cremeux de Bourgogne, Robiola Bosina, La Tur, Délice de Bourgogne, Cremont.
Pairing Ideology: Creamy, soft cheeses with a buttery texture will leave a rich slick of proteins and fat on your tongue. The best wines to pair with this texture are those that can act as palate cleansers, either because of their acidity, carbonation, or tannin. Of course, because these cheeses are so delicate in flavor, the best wine matches are also more delicate in flavor with a focus towards fruitiness.
Recommended Wines: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, sparkling wine, Chenin Blanc, Marsanne Blends, Viognier, Gamay, Trebbiano, Pinot Gris, dry Riesling, Schiava
On Pairing with Chèvre and other Goat Cheeses
Sainte-Maure de Touraine and Savennieres
Loire Valley, France: Sainte-Maure de Touraine is a goat cheese log with a greyish moldy rind that’s rolled in ash. It’s a pungent and somewhat chalky cheese that becomes increasingly nutty as it ages. The funkiness of this cheese matches particularly well with Savennières, a Chenin Blanc wine from the Angers region in the Loire, which demonstrates equally funky aromas of bruised apple, honeysuckle, and brown spices. Together the pairing creates a sweet, creamy note of ripe stone fruits.
Cheeses: Valençay, Crottin de Chavignol, Saint-Maure de Touraine, Chevre Log, Madurat, Mitica
Pairing Ideology: Although just as creamy as cow’s milk brie cheeses, many goat’s milk cheeses have a distinctly rustic flavor that evolves as they age, transforming into a more pungent, nutty taste. This intensity matches particularly well with more intensely flavored wines (fruity or earthy), particularly wines with some form of oxidation (either from oak-aging or oxidative winemaking).
Recommended Wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, orange wine, Gamay, GSM blend, Bordeaux blend (Cabernet-Merlot), Cabernet Franc, Carménère, rosé
On Pairing with Swiss and other Nutty Cheeses
Munster-Géromé and Gewürztraminer
Alsace, France: Alsace is famous for its exceptionally well-balanced Gewürztraminer wines, which balance sweet flavors of lychee and roses with subtle notes of ginger and tarragon. A bite of the local odiferous Munster-Géromé (more ripened than American Munster) with a taste of a youthful Gewürztraminer is pure delight!
Cheeses: Swiss, Raclette, Comté, Munster, Emmentaler, Beaufort d’Été, Gruyere
Pairing Ideology: One of the most versatile styles of cheeses that easily matches with a wide variety of wines. Still, when looking for a perfect pairing, this wine seems to act particularly well besides white wines with subtle sweetness, slight bitterness, and moderate acidity.
Recommended Wines: Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Gewürztraminer, sparkling rosé, Valpolicella blend, Gamay, GSM blend, Chardonnay, dry Sherry, Madeira, Port
On Pairing with Manchego and Iberian Sheep Cheeses
Idiazábal and Getariako Txakolina
Basque Country, Spain: Idiazábal is a buttery and smoky tasting sheep’s cheese that is made in Basque country. Alongside these cheeses are the local wines, called Txakolina (chok-oh-leena). One of the more interesting pairings involves Idiazábal with a rosé wine made with the Cabernet-relative Hondarribi Beltza. These wines have very low alcohol content and often have a slight spritz, which helps counteract the smokiness of the cheese.
Cheeses: Manchego, Zamorano, Idiazábal, Roncal, Grazalema, Serrat, Ovin, La Leyenda, La Serena, Torta del Casar
Pairing Ideology: This group of richly flavored and nutty cheeses pairs with a wide variety of wines, so you really can’t go wrong. That said, given their origin on the Iberian peninsula, the best matches include wines from Spain and Portugal.
Recommended Wines: Verdejo, Albariño, Cava, Cava Rosé, Vinho Verde, Garnacha, Mencía, Tempranillo, Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre), Alicante Bouschet