Gouda is a misunderstood cheese. Since the name isn’t protected, it’s used globally for a range of generic, mass-produced versions. But real Gouda (pronounced “HOW-da”) is one of the world’s great cheeses. Look for “Gouda Holland” or “Noord-Hollandse Gouda” designations for authentic Dutch cheese. There are six age categories that range from jonge kaas (young) to overjarig (very old). Try a few, with a different wine for each stage of development.
Younger Goudas are nutty and buttery, like macadamia or pine nuts. The Dutch drink beer alongside them, but try Sercial Madeira. Like the cheese, it has nutty notes and faint sweetness, with a palate-cleansing acidity to prep for the next bite.
As Gouda ages, it develops a throat-tickling sharpness that can be unpleasant when paired with wines that exhibit pronounced tannins. But when confronted with the cherry-berry fruit and high acidity of low-tannin Gamay, that spiciness retreats into a softer lactic tang.
After about a year of aging, Gouda’s easygoing flavors start to turn to butterscotch and toffee, while the salt intensifies. An off-dry Riesling echoes these caramelly notes with a vivid freshness that plays well against the saltiness.
Like Parmigiano-Reggiano, long-aged Gouda has tiny, crunchy amino acid crystals that pack a funky, umami punch. They are a sign of quality to cheese connoisseurs. The prickly sensation is fun to pair with a rich, tannic wine like Sagrantino, for a wild textural playdate.