From introductory courses in wine and cheese pairings to master-level programs, discover your inner sommelier. At the Wine School, we are all about making and doing and teaching. As a result, our cheese pairing classes are always a blockbuster.
Our cheese pairing classes are some of our most popular classes. We offer both wine-pairing and beer-pairing classes, and they tend to sell out months ahead of schedule. As a rule at the Wine School, you can’t teach it until you make it. So our instructors are not only brilliant sommeliers and winemakers, but that isn’t enough to teach this class: they have to be cheesemakers, too. Why? Because our classes are not only fun, they are super-smart.
Wine and Cheese Pairing Guide
In this article, we take a look at some classic wine and cheese pairing tips. However, for a more comprehensive experience, we suggest taking one of our wine and cheese pairing classes.
The world of wine is overwhelming; every grape, soil type, and climate creates different expressions. The hands of winegrowers and winemakers and their decisions also determine the final wine profile. The result is a myriad of wine styles that take a lifetime to explore. As a result, every bottle of wine is unique.
You could say something similar about cheese; deep tradition and a complex process with many variables allow cheesemakers to create thousands of different products, all with a particular taste.
Wine and cheese invariably find themselves on the same table; somewhere, someone enjoys a conversation with a glass of wine and a slice of cheese. So it’s not a surprise that some cheeses go well with some wines. Mastering the art of cheese pairings takes time and patience, but this guide will surely set a good base for you to enjoy this delightful pair harmoniously.
Wine and Cheese Pairings
To make these types of cheese, milk is curdled and drained. The result is usually a tangy, perishable cheese with a soft, often creamy texture. Ricotta and Queso Fresco are good examples. Goat cheese like the French chèvre and brined cheeses like feta also fit the description. Characteristic moisture and soft texture are always present. The flavor can be persistent but will never be overwhelming.
The best pairings for these types of cheese are light-bodied white wines, those with fruit-forward profiles and tight acidities. Wines are meant to be drunk fresh with no aging and spend most of their time in stainless steel tanks. Think Sauvignon Blanc, unoaked Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Vermentino.
We are pairing by weight and using the acidity of the wine to balance the sharpness in the cheese. In addition, some herb-flavored soft cheeses exist, and their herbaceousness can match vegetal whites like Sauvignon or Grüner Veltliner. You can pair stretched cheese, like mozzarella or Oaxaca, in the same way; also burrata and other whey cheeses.
Alpine and Fresh Cheeses
Soft, Creamy Cheese
Some of the most delightful cheese around the world has a soft, creamy texture. French Camembert and Brie are great ambassadors of the style. Époisses, Reblochon, and the heart-shaped Neufchâtel, also have a similar profile. However, don’t be fooled by the light texture; these cheeses can be pungent and relatively intense. The French Munster cheese is one of the most intensely flavored cheeses globally but can be as soft as butter.
To pair these cheeses, we must find bold wines that won’t fall short. This is where white wine and cheese pairing is essential. Full-bodied Chardonnays, traditional white Riojas, or oak-aged Viognier will have the necessary weight for the task. The dairy creaminess typical in some white wines, a product of malolactic fermentation, mirrors the flavors in cheese perfectly.
A light-bodied red wine like a Pinot Noir or a Beaujolais can be a good option, as long as it has the necessary acidity to hold ground against the buttery cheese. Intensely aromatic cheese might work well with equally intense white wines like Gewurztraminer or Riesling.
Alpine and Blue Cheeses
Aged Semi-Hard and Hard Cheese
As cheese ages, it loses moisture and gains flavor concentration. Cheddar, Edam, Emmental, and Gouda are considered semi-hard cheeses. Their creaminess is characteristic, and so is their firm but malleable texture. Moreover, the flavor can be mild or quite assertive. Semi-hard cheeses will pair nicely with medium-bodied red wines like Merlot, Malbec, or a Montepulciano.
We have to treat hard cheese differently. Both Parmigiano Reggiano or Manchego have a solid texture. These cheeses are usually bold and straightforward; they hold up to several years of aging before entering the market. Match their intensity and mouthfeel with assertive, structured red wines like an aged Tempranillo or a Cabernet Sauvignon. This is the type of wine and cheese pairing that allows wine lovers who dislike tannins (super-tasters in the lingo) can enjoy more tannic wines than usual.
When you inoculate cheese with bacteria from the Penicillin family, a miracle happens. Blue spots and veins develop in the cheese, creating incredibly fragrant aromas and ferocious flavors. Cheeses like Stilton, Roquefort, Cabrales, and Gorgonzola dominate the segment. However, their character is hard to match, and their sometimes overwhelming salinity challenges Sommeliers. Traditionally, only sweet, bold, and often fortified wines like Vin Santo, Port, or Muscat de Beaumes de Venise dare to match these delicacies. The sweetness balances the saltiness and the coating unctuousness of the sharp cheese.
Other sweet wines like Sauternes or Tokaji are good contenders too. Some people prefer pairing blue cheese with bold red wines like Côte du Rhone or a bold Cabernet, but you must try for yourself to find out what works for your palate. Keep in mind that a red wine and cheese pairing like this can go very wrong: some people’s palate will translate this pairing as tasting like aluminum foil.
Regional Wine and Cheese Pairings
When in doubt, find a local pairing. Regions with old traditions in cheese and winemaking have congruent palates. For example, the French make their goat cheese in the same area as their tangy Sauvignon Blanc. Manchego pairs best with sturdy Spanish Tempranillo, and Époisses come from the same region home to the classic Burgundy Chardonnays.
Be bold, creative, and propositive. Messing up a cheese and wine pairing is hard: they are just meant to be enjoyed together. The result will almost always be greater than the sum of its parts.