You’ve bought a bunch of wine and have invited the neighbors over for the evening. You need a selection of the finest fromage to match.
What do you buy?
If there is a cheesemonger at the counter, ask for recommendations based on your wines and guests. No fromage expert in sight? Need your cheese pronto?
Here are a few tips to guide your selection:
1. What grows together, goes together.
Think about where the wine is grown
Many European wine regions have long culinary traditions. Their cuisines and wines co-evolved within larger contexts of climate and culture. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Let long-standing traditions guide your cheese selection for the evening. Located in northwestern Italy, the Piedmont is known for gastronomic delights such as truffles and nebbiolo wines. If you’re serving a Barbaresco, Gattinara or Langhe Nebbiolo, look for a cheese with truffles. Feeling French? Opening a red or white Burgundy? Delice de Bourgogne, a cow’s milk cheese, also from Burgundy, is perfect for Pinot Noir or Chardonnay.
2. Work with contrasts.
Taking a bite makes you want a sip and vice versa
Zesty whites pair well with soft, creamy cheeses. Crisp white wine prepares the palate, and the acidity makes your mouth water. Decadent cheese coats the palate. Another sip of white wine cuts through fat, cleanses the palate. You are ready for another bite of cheese.
3. Fat and protein complement tannins.
This is why Cabernet works with steak… and aged cheddar
Got some bold reds open and don’t feel like grilling a sirloin? Big wines need hard, aged cheeses, like cheddar or Parmesan. The proteins and fats of the cheese complement the tannins of the wine, making the wine feel softer and smoother on the tongue. The wine’s ripe fruit flavors contrast with savory, nutty flavors in the cheese. (Note: nuts are a nice addition to any cheese board.)
4. Strong flavors need strong flavors Find balance
The wine and cheese should be almost equally flavorful. A blue cheese will make a delicate wine taste like water. A California Cabernet will plow over delicate flavors of a milder cheese. If you serve strongly-flavored wines, especially dessert wines, look for stronger cheeses, for instance blue and aged gouda.
Not sure what to buy? Pick up a variety of cheeses, mild and strong, soft and hard, and from around the world. Invite your guests to try their own pairings. Share what works and what doesn’t. You’ll start an interesting conversation about why some pairings work and others don’t.
Do you have a favorite wine and cheese pairing? Leave a comment below.