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MATCHING CHEESE AND WINE.

08/08/2014

Matching Cheese and Wine. 

You might think that matching cheese and wine is easy, it's just a question of opening a bottle of hefty red wine, pouring it into some glasses and serving it with cheese. This is a common misconception, that red wine and cheese are made for each other and go well together. This is often not the case.

Before I start though I do want to stress that I am a believer in what I refer to as 'it's your party'. By that I mean that whatever I may think about matching foods and wines is merely a guideline, in the end if you like a wine with a food together, no matter how odd or unpleasant it might sound to me, you are right. Drinking wine and eating food is about having fun, if it works for you, I won't argue with that.

I'd also like to say that I'm not here to give specific wine matches to specific cheeses, there are hundreds of websites doing that all with different ideas and suggestions. I am here to help you think about how to match the flavours of the wine and the cheese to make the right decision.

I am often asked for food and wine matches so I always offer my opinions based on my experiences and what I feel would work well. I always try and find a wine/food combination that will compliment both the wine and the food and not have one dominate the other. If that was the case you ight as well drink the wine seperately from the food. 

So firstly lets debunk the red wine and cheese idea. Some red wines work with some cheese, but the basic idea is that most red wines lack acidity to really cut through the fattiness of the cheese. There are reds that do work very well, but they are usually lighter style reds, with lighter fruit flavours and higher acidity. Red wines with higher levels of tannins can work well, but generally I steer clear of the big hefty reds, such as an aussie shiraz, with cheese. They tend to leave a cloying feeling in the mouth and you can't really get the best of the wine or the cheese. 

White wines on the other hand work very well with cheeses. The higher, crisper acidity can really stand up to the creamy fattines of a cheese, helping the palate to enjoy all the flavours of the wine and the cheese. There is so much variety in styles of white wines too that it can allow you a very wine range to choose from depending on the cheese. 

Another class of wine you should definitely consider when matching cheese and wine is sweet wines and as an extension; fortified wines such as port of sherry. Sweet wines will often have the acidity levels or nearly, of dry white wines and the sugars can add another dimension to balance the saltiness of the cheese. Likewise fortified wines such as ports and sherrys have that extra dimension, be it sweetness of the oxidative character, that can work very well with the cheese. 

So the short version of above is that most reds don't work very well with cheese, you have to be selective. Whites work much better with cheese and sweet/fortified wines can work very well with cheese. 

I know earlier on I said i wasn;t going to recommend specific wines/cheese matches, I'm not but here are a couple of generic guidelines I work to:

Goats cheeses soft and hard. Crisp whites, Sauvignon Blanc works very well.

Hard cheeses such as cheddar. Fuller bodied whites, Burgundy works very well.

Smelly runny cheeses such as unpasturised Brie. Fuller bodied whites or Crisp, acidic reds.

Swiss/Alsace style cheeses. Rich white wines with a touch of sweetness, Reislings, Gewurztraminers work well.

Blue cheeses. Sweet wines like Sauternes or fortified wines such as a good vintage port. Tawny port is also very good here. 

Smoked cheese. This is a very tricky one, I go with rich whites such as a powerful white Burgundy or oaked chardonnay.

If these guidelines don't grab you, another simple rule one can work by is to match the wine and cheese geographically. Wine and cheese has been made locally all over the world for hundreds of years. If you can select a wine made locally to a cheese, chances are it will work quite well. A generalisation I know but not a bad one to try if all else fails. 

So there are some very basic cheese and wine matching guidelines. There are thousands of permutations, each with their own pros and cons. The best way to match a cheese and wine is to taste them, repeatedly and regulalry. This is not only educational, it's great fun although not so good for the waistline. Remember practice makes perfect.