A Twist on Classic Wine & Cheese Pairings

Cheese Pairings
Photo by Daniel Krieger

Wine and cheese have been paired together for centuries, but not every wine goes with every cheese. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t be more daring with your pairing. Check out these classic matches—and try our modern twists as well.

Classic Pairing: Brie or triple creams with Champagne

Why it works: Nothing washes away the creaminess of a silky cheese like the scouring bubbles of Champagne. And nothing but Champagne matches the luxury of a triple cream’s rich texture.

The Twist: Cambozola with sparkling Shiraz

Why it works: The creaminess of this decadent, bloomy rind German cheese matches the wine’s effervescence, but the sharpness of the blue cultures stand up to the tannins.

Chevre, Chenin Blanc
Photo by Daniel Krieger

Classic Pairing: Fresh chèvre with Chenin Blanc

Why it works: Chèvre, in all of its lovely forms, developed with the fine white wines of the Loire Valley. This is a classic “goes with where it grows” pairing, as the goat milk and the wines match each other in acidity and intensity (Loire Sauvignon Blancs are a good match, too).

The Twist: Humboldt Fog with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Why it works: This iconic American original is a soft-ripened, lightly aged goat cheese. It’s texture is fudgy at the core and almost runny at the edges, with a central line of edible ash. The Sauvignon Blanc shares that big personality, as well as tangy, grassy flavors.

Stilton, Ruby Port
Photo by Daniel Krieger

Classic Pairing: Stilton with ruby Port

Why it works: The rich creaminess and salty sharpness of the cheese meld with the wine’s sweet depth.

The Twist: Fresh ricotta, honey and cocoa nibs with tawny Port

Why it works: Fresh ricotta by itself would be obliterated by the Port. However, adding a dash of honey and dark-chocolate complexity forms a bridge to the wine’s toffee-like sweetness.

Limburger and porter
Photo by Daniel Krieger

Classic Pairing: Limburger with porter

Why it works: If there was ever a cheese that called for beer, it’s this pungent favorite. The fizzy dark brew can stand up to the stink of the cheese. Try a German beer with German cheese, a Wisconsin beer with Wisconsin cheese, etc.

The Twist: Époisses with Tokaji Aszú

Why it works: Stinky can be sophisticated, and Époisses de Bourgogne, its rind washed with the local brandy, is a king among this style of cheese. Tokaji aszú, like Sauternes, is made from grapes infected with “noble rot.” Its ginger and butterscotch notes bring out the subtly sweet, spicy and creamy aspects of the cheese.

Eating 500 French Cheeses

 Classic Pairing: Cheddar with red Bordeaux

Why it works: The tang and crystalline crunch of Cheddar combine magically with the cassis and tobacco notes of a good Bordeaux, especially a gravelly textured Cab-Merlot blend from Graves.

The Twist: Tillamook Extra-Sharp Cheddar with an oaky California Chardonnay

Why it works: An unexpected match of oft-maligned West Coast favorites, their shared creaminess lets other qualities take center stage, like the wine’s apple-like fruit and the cheese’s spicy complexity.

Parmigiano-Reggiano (aged at least 20 months) with Chianti
Photo by Daniel Krieger

Classic Pairing: Parmigiano-Reggiano (aged at least 20 months) with Chianti

Why it works: Aged Parmigiano is a nutty, nuanced, hard cheese with a distinct crumble, and the mouthwatering fruit of Chianti balances its salty richness. Parmigiano-Reggiano is arguably the most versatile cheese to pair with wine. It’s superb with whites and reds, bubbles or no bubbles.

The Twist: 18-month-old Boerenkaas with Condrieu

Why it works: Boerenkaas, an aged Gouda popular in its Dutch homeland, can be as versatile as Parm. Though beers and big reds can be divine, a lush, round Condrieu, reminiscent of peaches and white flowers, works with the salted-caramel flavors and firm, crystalline texture of the cheese.

The Better, Wine-Friendly Cheese Platter

It’s easy to overlook the other elements that comprise the perfect cheese plate, but don’t. Proper choices can turn a solid pairing into a stupendous one.

  • Fresh and dried fruit provide a bridge between wine and cheese, as do chutneys and jams. Try to mirror the wines you’re serving: If the wine has cherry aromas, serve with dried cherries or not-too-sweet cherry chutney.
  • Nuts bring out the nuttiness of cheese even more. Honey is a welcome touch, especially if you’re serving a dessert wine. If you’re serving red wine, a crack of black pepper will tie the wine and cheese together.
  • Forget serving squishy white bread and saltines. Instead, serve fresh-baked crusty bread and the best artisanal crackers you can find.
Published on October 10, 2012
Topics: Food TrendsPairingsWine & Cheese