An unripened soft cheese, ricotta is endlessly versatile. It’s easy to spread, whip and incorporate into recipes. Ricotta is one of the world’s oldest known cheeses: Its earliest incarnations have ambiguous roots around the Mediterranean, where its production method—via “recooking” whey leftover from the creation of hard cheeses—caught on among traders who would bring it to Italy. Today, most ricotta found in U.S. stores is made from milk instead of whey, or some combination of the two, and can be grainier or denser. However, both versions have a mild flavor profile that makes for worry-free pairings with a diversity of wine styles.
Even the mass-produced tubbed stuff sold widely in American supermarkets is undeniably fresh. Complement this characteristic with a vibrant, aromatic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, which typically boasts notes of ripe fruit and just-mowed grass that would be equally refreshing.
Though light in body, Vermentino can boast some big citrus- and white-fruit flavors as well as a pleasantly bitter finish. While these qualities can overpower delicate cheeses and are ill fit for those with competing strong flavors, they are a Goldilocks match for ricotta’s mild (dare we say pillowy?) profile.
While ricotta can be airy and is relatively low in fat compared to many other cheeses, it maintains a rich and creamy mouthfeel. With crisp acidity and delicate fruit tones that aren’t overbearing, a mineral-driven Provençal rosé is an excellent foil.
Ricotta’s tame flavor is perhaps its biggest hallmark, but as a milky, unsalted or low-salt cheese, it does have a very subtle sweetness. For a unique complement, look for a lighter skin-contact wine made with just a short maceration time that would offer fleshy, floral and lightly fruited, but bitter qualities.
This article originally appeared in the August/September 2022 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!