Just as evidence suggests that wine may have been first consumed by accident when prehistoric humans ate fermenting fruit and enjoyed the buzz, blue cheese is thought to have been “discovered” by cheesemakers whose milk or cheese was unintentionally tainted by Penicillium molds. Now, of course, inoculation with such fungi produces some of the world’s great blue delicacies: Gorgonzola, Stilton, Roquefort and dozens of other varieties marked by characteristic blue-colored veins are as revered as they are polarizing. While intense, these cheeses are incredibly versatile, and your pairing choices can accentuate what you most love about them.
The word “funky” may be a bit overused in the world of wine and food, but it’s tailor made for these sometimes pungent cheeses. Made from grapes infested with the Botrytis cinerea fungus, or noble rot, sweet Sauternes lends its own subtle funk when paired with blue cheeses.
These are salty cheeses, and what goes well with salted snacks? Something sweet. An off-dry cider would be a terrific choice for those who don’t love sweet wine but still want to toy with opposing flavors. A plate of blue cheese and crisp apples paired with cider is a no-brainer.
There’s a reason why blue cheeses are often used in dessert courses. They have a concentrated, fudgy quality that invites complementary sweet flavors. Tawny Port is a sweet, fortified wine with nutty, savory qualities. Alongside blue cheeses, it almost has a salted-caramel effect.
Full and luscious, blue cheeses tend to be high in fat. While tannins will cut this richness, those that are too coarse would clash with its sharper notes. Enter Amarone della Valpolicella. Made from partially dried grapes, this bold yet smooth dry wine offers complementary flavors of fig, raisin and chocolate.