Cheddar is one of the country’s best-loved cheeses. Only mozzarella is more popular in the U.S., and that’s because of pizza. Few cheeses have the diversity of styles that cheddar does, partly because its name, which comes from the English town where it was originally made, has no legal status in any country.
Though plastic-wrapped supermarket cheddar has its fans—especially for melting—cheese lovers should try long-aged, clothbound styles to see the heights that humble cheddar can reach.
Its versatility is reflected in the many wines that pair with its complex flavors.
Cheddar’s nuttiness becomes more pronounced as it ages. This characteristic suggests both sweetness and salt, which a sweet wine (or a malt-driven beer) complements perfectly. Sweet Jurançon from Southwest France has honey and spice notes that turn a wedge of cheddar into a luscious dessert.
Young cheddar melts like a dream, which is why it’s so popular in mac ‘n’ cheese, grilled sandwiches, Welsh rarebit and fondue. With gooey dishes like these, reach for the bubbles, preferably an English sparkling wine to pay homage to cheddar’s original home.
Aged cheddar is as powerfully flavored as Roquefort, Pecorino or aged Gouda, and calls for an equally powerful wine. Enter Montefalco Sagrantino, an inky Umbrian wine with jammy black fruit and tingly tannins. Fans of cheddar with Branston pickle (an intense chutney) will love this pairing.
Many cheddars boast fresh herbal and grassy notes. While Sauvignon Blanc is often paired with “green” flavors, its citrus and tropical notes can overwhelm cheddar’s delicate side. Instead, reach for Grüner Veltliner, a goes-with-anything wine that lets cheddar’s subtler side shine.