How to Successfully Pair Wine & Cheese

You like wine and you like cheese, so pairing the two should be easy, right? Select a delicious cheese, open any wine you like, eat and enjoy. Not so fast. Wine and cheese pairings should not be complicated but they do require some important knowledge for a successful combination.

Here are a few basic guidelines to keep in mind to achieve a successful wine and cheese pairing.

  1. Age matters: Younger cheese contain a higher water and milk content, as cheese ages the moisture begins to evaporate, resulting in a higher level of fat and protein. This is important when pairing because a young vibrant wine pairs well with a young cheese, conversely an older more tannic wine begs for the fattier cheese. However, this is not as straight forward as it may seem. Brie, a cheese often believed to be high in fat, is often a young cheese that derives its creaminess more from water. This means a brie style cheese pairs well with a fruit forward, lighter, young wine. Furthermore, as cheese ages it develops more complex, nutty characteristics. These cheeses benefit from wines with barrel ageing, increasing their body and complexity. If age is not taken into consideration your wine and cheese pairing could stink.
  2. Sweet wine loves salty cheese. If you’re planning the perfect wine and cheese pairing for dessert of course you want to select cheeses that pair well with dessert wines. Salt in foods heighten the perception of sweetness in wines; therefore, select a salty cheese to pair with your Sauternes, Port, or Vin Santo. Your palate will dance with delight.
  3. A good cheese platter includes nuts, fruit, and spreads. We all love good accompaniments to our cheese; honey, quince paste, dried figs and apricots, marcona almonds, and roasted hazelnuts. Keep this in mind when selecting wine. What wine would you pair with honey, dried figs, or roasted nuts? Chances are that is the right wine for your cheese pairing as well.
  4. What grows together goes together: You have heard me say this time and time again. Once you have selected a wine or a cheese, find a complimentary wine or cheese from the same region. It is the shortest road to success. Manchengo cheese from Spain is a very wine friendly cheese, pairing with a wide variety of wines from all over the world. But if you have never had Manchengo and are unsure which wine to select, start with a Spanish red wine.

The forth guideline takes us to France, known for its wines and its cheeses. Whole Foods, Full Circle Wine, and Bon Appetite France want to assist you in taking out the guess work for French wine and cheese pairings. At Whole Foods nation-wide this month you will find French cheese specially selected and marked to pair with French wines you will find in the wine section. Yesterday Whole Foods hosted a Facebook Live event discussing these French wine and cheese pairings. Please visit the Whole Foods Facebook page to watch the discussion.

Here are four French wine and cheese pairings available this month from Whole Foods:

Domaine de la Fruitière Gneiss de Bel Abord Muscat Sèvre & Maine with P’tit Basque cheese. The wine is fresh and crisp with orchard fruit, bright citrus, quince, and a salty minerality. The cheese is produced from 100% sheep’s milk in France’s Basque region along the Pyrenees Mountains. It is soft in texture with a sweet nutty flavor. Enjoy alone with the saltiness of the wine or add some quince paste to bring out the fruitiness of both.

Alain de la Treille Chinon with Mimolette cheese. The Cabernet Franc offers a light body, with notes of smoke, minerality, and fruit such as blackcurrant and blackberries. Its youthfulness pairs well with the Mimolette, a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese with a light fruitiness and medium salinity. I really enjoyed this combination. The cheese looks like a cantaloupe.

Of the four wines and cheese featured in the Facebook Live event my local Whole Foods was lacking one of the cheese. Therefore, at the recommendation of the cheese monger I made the following substitution. Vignobles des Roches Morgon with Epoisses chees from Herve Mons. The wine is 100% Gamay crafted in the village of Morgon in Beaujolais. It is a light bodied wine with depth of flavors including red and black fruit, violets, lavender, and dried herbs; it is young and vibrant. The cheese is a stinky cheese, rich and creamy with a firm texture. Despite its pungency, it is slightly sweet and spicy. A perfect pairing with the fruitiness of the wine.

Paul Jaboulet Aîné Biographie Côtes Du Rhône with Saint Angel cheese. This wine from southern Rhone is a blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 20% Mourvedre. It is a ripe, full body wine with loads of jammy berries, spice, earthiness, and smoke. The cheese is a triple cream, cow’s milk cheese from the Rhone Alps region. It’s smooth and creamy texture is ideal for the ripe fruits of the wine. Add some cured meats and figs and you’ve got a cheese board winner.

Head to your local Whole Foods Market this month to find all twelve Made In France wines and cheeses.

*Disclaimer: I received the wines and a gift card to purchase the cheese from Whole Foods Market. I would like to thank them for including me in this event. All thoughts and opinions in this article are my own. I received no compensation beyond the media samples provided.

To view all 12 French wine and cheese pairings please read Q&A with Our Experts: 12 French Wine + Cheese Pairings You’ve Got to Try

I’d like to thank Meg Houston Maker for her guidance on how to pair wine with cheese. To learn more about successful wine and cheese pairings please read her article, The Serious Eats Cheese and Wine Pairing Cheat Sheet. Discover all her wine and cheese pairings on Maker’s Table.

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