David’s article as prepared for the Duluth News Tribune for the column which ran on 1/6/2016:
Pairing Advice: Wine & Cheese
Wine and cheese are an iconic pairing but choosing correctly is daunting. Here are three simple concepts to help you make a pairing and advice on what wines goes with what cheese.
The first thing to remember when pairing any wine with any food is to match the intensity of the wine with the intensity of the food. A big bold Australian shiraz goes great with smoked meat and barbecue because both are rich, spicy and have strong mouth filling flavors, while a crisp light sauvignon blanc goes great with a summer salad, dressed in olive oil and lemon because both the wine and the salad have light high-acid tart flavors. Pairing the intensity of the food with the boldness of the wine will often be enough to make a competent choice.
The second thing to remember is that foods that grow together, go together. Italian food tastes best with Italian wine – honest I’m not making this up. How simple is that? Cooking a German inspired meal? Buy German wine. Looking to pair a French sauvignon blanc from the town of Sancerre with a cheese? It helps to know that the cheeses from the region around Sancerre are mostly goat cheese, called chèvre. Goat cheese and sauvignon blanc are a perfect combination. A knowledge of geography and an interest in where your food was produced will help you make delicious pairings.
The third and final thing to remember is to match the age of the cheese with the age of the wine. This doesn’t mean that you need to eat 12 year old cheddar with a 12 year old cabernet sauvignon. It means you consider how the cheese was made and if it was aged before pairing it with your wine. A Sancerre is a wine designed to be consumed young just like goat cheese which is soft, fresh and tangy. An aged cheddar with a bit of roundness to its flavor would favor a bolder more mature wine such as a Napa cabernet sauvignon. When assessing the age of a cheese remember that hardness equals age. Thus parmesan (aged 12 to 36 months before release) is older than brie (aged 5 to 6 weeks).
Wine and Cheese Pairing suggestions:
Fresh and soft cheeses such as ricotta, mozzarella, burrata, chèvre, feta and camembert love crisp white wine, sparkling wine, dry rosé and light-bodied, low-tannin reds. Best pairings for these cheeses are riesling, gewürztraminer, moscato, champagne, unoaked chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, beaujolais and fino sherry.
Semi-hard and medium aged cheeses such as swiss, gouda, young cheddar and monterey jack have a firmer texture and pair best with medium bodied whites and fruit forward reds such as oaked chardonnay, viognier, pinot blanc, gewürztraminer, pinot noir, zinfandel, merlot, amontillado sherry and port.
Hard cheeses such as aged cheddar, aged gouda, manchego, asiago and parmesan love full-bodied whites and tannic reds. These cheeses also have a nuttiness to them that works well with sweet dessert wines. Best pairings are aged chardonnay, sweet riesling, vintage champagne, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, Barolo, Barbaresco, Amarone, petite sirah, syrah, zinfandel, Rhone red blends, red blends, oloroso sherry, madeira and Sauternes.
Blue cheese needs wine with boldness and sweetness to balance the intense flavor and often salty rind. Pair with oaked chardonnay, California red blends, port, oloroso sherry and Sauternes.
Stinky, runny cheese, such as brie, pairs best with aromatic wine that compliments earthy flavors. Good pairings include chenin blanc, cabernet franc or pinot noir.
Exploring the world of wine and cheese pairing offers a lifetime of culinary adventure, embrace the journey and have fun in tasting the process.
David Devere is a certified specialist of wine. He writes wine articles for the Duluth News Tribune, teaches wine education classes, and leads wine adventures in France. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.