Wine and cheese… a match made in heaven. Although there are no rules set in stone about pairing wine and cheese, there are some guidelines to follow as well as classic pairings. Think crisp Sauvignon Blanc paired with fresh goat cheese, Sauternes paired with Roquefort or a Port paired with Stilton.
The opposing tastes of fat and protein in cheese vs. the acidity and tannin in wines are why these two foods pair together so well. The primary characteristics in wine, tannin and acidity, have been shown to scrape off fatty proteins from the tongue, making wine an ideal palate cleanser for protein-rich foods.
Bubbles paired with cheese
If you are anything like me, I love starting off any festive occasion, or any occasion for that matter, with bubbles. I especially love Champagne or California Sparkling Wine with creamy double and triple-crèmes, such as Brie, Fromager d’Affinois or Brillat-Savarin. The bubbles do a wonderful job cleansing your palate and help break down the acids and fats of the cheese. Sparkling wines also have a degree of acidity and sweetness that gives them a special affinity for certain cheeses, especially these rich, buttery types.
White wine cheese pairings
To broadly generalize, you’ll find that rich white wines will pair with softer-textured cheeses like Brie, although white wines pair with all types of cheese, soft or firm, mild or pungent. Dry whites pair well with soft cheeses, especially those with mild flavors, while whites with crisp acidity go well with acidic goat cheeses.
Perhaps two of my go-to white wine and cheese pairings hail from France. I love Crottin de Chavignol, a goat cheese, which is made in town of Chavignol, just 2 miles from Sancerre in the Loire Valley of France. Like I always say when it comes to food and wine pairings, “what grows together goes together”.
Goat cheese also pairs wonderfully with California Sauvignon Blanc. Try the Mira Winery Sauvignon Blanc. It is light and crisp with racy acidity and pairs wonderfully with goat cheese.
Another favorite white wine and cheese pairing of mine is Chenin Blanc, also from the Loire Valley in France, paired with Chèvre, also a French goat cheese. When it comes to a similar pairing from California that is quite delicious, try a Chardonnay. The Mira Napa Valley Chardonnay has wonderful citrus notes similar to a Chenin Blanc and is perfectly balanced by vibrant natural acidity, which cuts through the richer, creamy cheese.
Red wine cheese pairings
Traditionally, red wines do well with firm cheeses, especially firm, aged cheeses. Red wines also pair nicely with more pungent cheese. Beware of softer-textured cheeses, which can make red wines taste thin and flabby, while emphasizing the tannins.
As cheese ages and loses water content, it becomes richer in flavor with its increased fat content. These two attributes are ideal for matching bold red wines because the fat content in the cheese counteracts the high level of tannins in the wine. For the best results, select cheeses that have been aged at least a year, including Cheddar, Gruyère, Manchego, Gouda, Provolone, or Parmesan-style varieties like Parmigiano-Reggiano and Grana Padano.
Merlot is one of my favorites to sip on with cheese and works very well with hard cheeses such as aged goat cheese that is a deeper, earthier cheese. The Mira Hyde Vineyard Merlot has a plush texture and supple tannins making this a delicious pairing.
Cabernet Sauvignon gloriously pairs with firm aged cheeses such as cheddar. The Mira Yountville Cabernet Sauvignon is delicious with aged cheeses. Intense fresh aromatics of sweet and dried fruit are balanced by notes of black pepper and cigar box. On the palate the wine shows its bold structure and bracing acidity, a window into the tremendous potential for this wine to evolve as it ages. The wine is dark, dense, and delicious with aged cheeses.
Port wine cheese pairing
Pungent, stinky, salty and delicious? Bring on the Stilton. A dark, sweet red dessert wine paired with Stilton blue cheese or even earthy aged cheddar is classic and heavenly. The rich creaminess, sharpness and saltiness of Stilton paired with the sweetness of a red dessert wine, such as a Port, creates an elegant and classic pairing.
Quick cheese & wine pairing guide
Bubbles paired with Brie
Rosé of Pinot Noir paired with Fontina
Sauvignon Blanc paired with Goat Cheese
Chardonnay paired with Triple-Cream Cheeses
Pinot Noir paired with Gruyere
Cabernet Franc paired with Sheep and Goat Cheeses
Syrah paired with Gouda
Merlot paired with Aged Goat Cheese
Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Aged Cheddar
Vintage Port paired with Stilton Blue Cheese