Wine and cheese are two of life's great culinary pleasures and have a strong affinity, going back thousands of years. It’s no coincidence therefore that some of the best cheese tasting experiences can be found in some of the finest wine regions in the world.
Both are fermented products and require patience, care and moderate temperatures to mature naturally. Perhaps the best method to pair wines with cheeses is to go by the same simple standard that applies to all regional cuisine and wine pairing– and that is location.
The connection between the food of a region and the wine there in is a strong one and one that has been created over many hundreds of years. Often the wine from a particular area reflects the style, weight, flavours and aromas of the local diet, and vice versa.
While there are no hard and fast rules to wine and cheese matching, the following “rules of thumb” tend to work well:
• Match white wines with soft cheeses and those with stronger flavours;
• Match red wines with hard cheeses and those with milder flavours;
• Fruity, sweet wines and dessert wines work well with a broad range of cheeses and therefore the safest option when presented with a cheese platter; and
• The more pungent the cheese, the sweeter the wine should be.Below is a rough guide to the most common cheese and wine pairings.
CREAM AND SOFT CHEESES (Brie, Camembert and Ricotta)
Because these cheeses can be very rich, they need to be paired with wine that is high in acidity. When it comes to the white wines, Chardonnay is a good bet, as is a Sparkling White Wine, Pinot Gris or a Semillon Sauvignon Blanc. If you must do a red wine with these cheeses, try a Merlot or a Pinot Noir.
This cheese can be very tangy, quite salty and have an intense flavour. The tang of the cheese and the saltiness of it requires a high acid white wine as it would clash with red wine or another type of wine. The perfect wine for pairing with goat cheese is Riesling, Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc.
MILD CHEESES (Mozzarella, Monterey Jack and some milder Cheddar)
These cheeses have some flavour to them and go well with a variety of wines due to their texture and mild flavour. The best wines to serve with these cheeses are full bodied white wines such as Chardonnay,Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Viognier. If you'd like to match a red wine, make sure you stick to the lighter type of red wines because you don't want the red wine to overpower the cheese.
MEDIUM CHEESES (Cheddar, Colby, Edam, Gouda)
A dry white Riesling or even a Pinot Gris are a good match, as well as light and moderate red wines such as Merlot, Pinot Noir, and even Shiraz.
PUNGENT CHEESES (Blue Cheese, Parmesan, mature aged Cheddar)
These cheeses have very distinct and intense flavours and demand a full, tannic red, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Cabernet Merlot or Shiraz that will stand up to a strong flavoured cheese. Port is the classic accompaniment to most cheeses and goes particularly well with strongly
The salty, bacon taste of smoked cheese is so distinctive that it is tough to find a wine that can live up to it, without altering the flavour of the wine. An Australian Shiraz would be the
most preferred match here. A sweet dessert wine (Sauternes) will also withstand the smoky taste.
These are just a few examples of the hundreds of wonderful pairings between wine and cheese. Don't hesitate to experiment as there are plenty of exotic and interesting cheeses out there just waiting for a glass of wine and a palette to play with.
If you love hand-made cheese products, you now have the chance to sample the best locally made cheese at The Hunter Valley Cheese Factory located at McGuigan Wine Cellars - 447 McDonalds Road, Pokolbin.
The Two Fat Blokes Euro-Deli Café on Broke Rd in Pokolbin also offer a tasty selection of 100 local and international cheeses and now also have a Cheese Club - a great way to try a variety of cheeses (or give as a gift) with cheese from around the world delivered to you (or your lucky receipient) every month.■