Wine & Cheese Pairings

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Wine and Cheese Pairing Chart

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 Wine and Cheese Pairings

Wine and Cheese Pairings

wine_and_cheese_pairings-965x1024A few months back, as I was ordering still another batch of cheese from Gina Freize of Venissimo to prepare for a small wine and cheese pairing event, I thought how helpful it would be have a wine and cheese pairing chart at my finger tips.  While I have a basic knowledge of fromage, it’s not at all uncommon that I seek advice from Gina or other resources.  So I turned to Gina for suggestions and expertise and she turned me one to her wine and cheese pairing “wheel,” displayed at the bottom of this post.  This schematic is a great place to start in experimenting with pairings whether you be a novice or a more advanced cheese lover.

The approach behind creating a delicious wine and cheese match is no different than pairing wine with any food.  In the end, the goal is for both to work harmoniously in a marriage of flavors, textures and aromas.  For example, think of pairing steak and wine.  While you would pair a big, tannic red such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah (Shiraz), Zinfandel or Chianti with the steak, a Sauvignon Blanc would simply get lost, all its acid driven citrusy elements overwhelmed by the fattiness and texture of the beef.  You wouldn’t want to introduce a salty dish to a tannic red, the salt guaranteed to accent the tannins in a not so pleasant fashion.  So it should come as no surprise that the goal here is to offend neither the wine nor the cheese.  That being said, tastes, quite literally, as well as scents, are highly subjective and the pairings that I like, you may not.  As well, price is always a consideration in pairing so it’s worth reviewing the chart for wines with similar profiles but at different levels.  For example, both California Chardonnay and white Burgundy are made from the same grape but in different terroirs and it may be that one is more affordable than the other while accomplishing the same goal.

For me, there are a few guidelines that help to improve pairings.  First, don’t try to be a hero and stack several diverse cheeses on a plate and expect them all to dance with a single wine.  Arranging a stinky cheese, next to a blue, next to a fresh chevre, next to a hard cheese might seem wise, but not when it punishes your palate.

That’s as risky as expecting a twenty something group of guests at Thanksgiving to all agree that one wine works with the turkey and all the side dishes…………….It doesn’t……….Trust me, I’ve tried it!!

If there’s one single gem to share with you that will almost guarantee a successful pairing it’s this: go with a white wine with just a touch of sweetness.  These wines will bridge nearly any cheese from rich and creamy to hard cheddars to the ever stinky Epoisses.  If you don’t like any sweetness, dry whites do nearly as well.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t improve the pairing by refining the white wine varietal or going with a red, if the cheese will stand up to it.  Cabernet Sauvignon is beautiful with a Marisa, Dry Jack or even a softer Manchego and Port is a classic with the blue Stilton, Farmhouse Cheddar and luscious with some shaved Parmigiano Reggiano drizzled with a few drops of honey.  Just keep in mind that reds can be tricky with many cheeses, emphasizing the tannins or disrupting the acidity and throwing your palate a real unsavory curveball.

In the end, use the Venissimo Wine and Cheese Pairing Wheel the way you would any pairing chart, as a guide, not gospel.  And don’t be timid about pushing the limits a bit.  You may discover a new love.


Jim Seder