If you know me in real life, it’s no secret that I love cheese. Whenever I host a get-together, I always make sure to have a cheese plate prepared. I feel like cheese and wine go together like Rhoda and Mary, or Lucy and Ethel (or even Thelma and Louise?). What I’m trying to say is that cheese and wine are those two best friends that should always be together.
However, the task of pairing cheese and wine can be a bit intimidating, especially if you’re new to entertaining or just starting out on your wine journey. Hey, no worries! I have complied a quick and easy guide to help you master cheese and wine pairing for your next girls’ night in, work party, or family gathering. Whether we are doing these things virtually this year or not, this is a great guide to have on hand for any future get-togethers you may have, too.
Simply follow these basic guidelines, and even Martha Stewart herself would say you’ve done a good job.
5 Tips for Easy Wine and Cheese Pairing
1. Always serve cheese at room temperature.
This may come as a shock to some of you, but think of it as serving a red wine cold. While it’s not a terrible faux-pas, and sometimes you might even enjoy a crisper temperature (especially in the summer), lower temperatures tend to mute the flavors and aromas. This same principle applies to cheese. You want to taste all the delicious flavors of that brie, Wisconsin cheddar, or burrata!
2. When tasting cheeses, go from light to funky.
Again, follow similar guidelines for the cheese as you would with wine. You wouldn’t necessarily start your night off with a rich, powerful Loire Valley Cab Franc, right? Typically, tastings start with a light, crisp, sparkling wine. A Cabernet Franc has too many flavors to start your tasting with, and doing so will “burn” out your palate. Likewise, it’s best to start with fresh and light cheeses. Favorites of mine include mozzarella, creamy goat, or some brie. Then move onto more flavorful cheeses, such as parmigiana or manchego. End with your funky friends like Danish Blue or Roquefort. These last cheeses will also pair best with a sweet Port wine or Sauternes, two wines that you would never start your dinner with, either.
3. When in doubt, choose a white wine.
White wines tend to be more forgiving with cheeses, so if you’re not sure what to pair with it, just stay safe with a white wine. Red wines can potentially be too overpowering, especially with mild cheeses. Whites like a Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer, The Seeker Riesling, Don Olegario Albariño, sparkling Bouvet Ladubay Brut from the Loire Valley, or a Chenin Blanc are great “safe” wines.
4. Accessories are a cheese’s (second) best friend.
Although this article is about cheese and wine pairing, don’t forget about accompaniments to your cheese board. Different nuts, honey, apples, pears, figs, or assorted jams can really make your cheese board diverse and tasty. However, a word of caution: When it comes to crackers, there are a lot of flavored options on the market. These strong flavors can compete with the cheese and wine pairing. When trying to showcase a particular pairing, leave the rosemary garlic herb crackers in the box, and stick with Waterthins or original Triscuits, instead.
5. Variety is the spice of life.
There’s a whole world of fabulous cheese and wine pairings, so don’t be afraid to mix it up! Cheese can be divided into six categories: Fresh (no Rind), Bloomy, Washed Rind, Semi-soft, Hard, and our Funky Friends. A successful cheese plate has a little bit of each. Also, don’t be afraid to add a wild card to your cheese plate. Ever tried Chipotle Cheddar or Ash Rind Brie? Go for it.
To help simplify things, I’ve made a chart to break down what to pair with the most common types of cheeses. This is organized by category of cheese.
Wine and Cheese Pairing Reference Chart:
Although these are suggested pairings, I do still recommend experimenting and finding out what you really like and enjoy.