Ernest Hemingway one said, “Wine is the most civilized thing in the world.” We all know how I feel about beer, and the same can be said for wine. I really can’t say which I like better…each pairs with cheese in its own amazing way!
Both wine and cheese have been part of the human diet for a very long time, so there are lots of opinions on what goes with what. And again, they are both living things that change with age, so what you tasted in December will more than likely taste completely different a few months—or years—later.
The most basic guideline for pairing wine and cheese: Eat what you like with wine you like to drink. It’s as simple as that. No hard-and-fast rules. Wine and cheese is about enjoying yourself. Why would you eat what you don’t like…right?
But for those of you who want a starting point to jump from, here are some simple guidelines to base some of your first pairings.
First, let me say that wine must be served not too cold and not too warm. Proper cellar temperature is around 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and while I certainly don’t advocate serving all wines at 55 degrees, proper cellar temperature is a good starting point for both reds and whites. Reds are best when served slightly above cellar temperature but not close to room temperature. That is way too warm.
So pop your reds in the fridge the day you want to drink them and remove them about a half hour prior to popping the cork. For white wines, cellar temperature is appropriate. Any colder than that and it mutes the complex flavors of the wine. Again, 30 minutes before popping the cork, take it out of the fridge. Same goes for cheese.
Now let’s talk putting cheese and wine together.
White wine pairs well with pretty much anything, so if you like a particular cheese and particular wine, try them together. Crispy whites, like a pinot gris, pair well with creamy cheeses.
Fruity, light reds like a young zinfandel pair great with blooming rind cheese like Kunik, a goat and cow’s milk blended cheese. I also like to pair more spicy/jammy reds with funky cheeses—sometimes the funkier the better.
Roquefort goes great with dessert wines or port. I had a big hunk of Maytag blue with an aged white wine and it was delish!
When considering your options, great pairings occur when the wine brings flavor out of the cheese or vice versa. Terroir plays a role again. It’s true what people tout: Location, location, location! Choosing traditional cheeses and wines from the same region is a safe bet to a happy pairing.
Here are a few of my favorite pairings:
Annie Lehrer is a nurse practitioner who will soon be a farm girl and cheesemaker. Born and raised in St. Louis, she’s been in the kitchen with her mother and grandmother since she can remember. Having a house full of family, friends and delicious food is her idea of the perfect way to spend an evening. A former travel nurse, Annie has lived in various cities across the U.S. exploring diverse culinary scenes. Food—and everything associated with it, from earth to belly—is her passion. She dwells in downtown St. Louis with her cheesemonger husband, Simon. When not caring for patients at the hospital, Annie is swillin’ craft beer with her beer nerd crew, researching livestock, writing recipes, planning chicken coop designs, keeping up with the St. Louis art scene and spending time with her big Lebanese family. She loves cheese. She writes about all things cheese on her blog The Cheesemonger’s Wife. She’s funny as hell. You can try and keep up with her crazy life on Twitter.