Your Guide to Wine and Cheese Pairing
It is the New Year’s Eve, and the guests that you are expecting are going to arrive shortly one by one. You have already made a set up of bowls filled with salty snacks, not to mention a couple of grand plate of cheeses. You also prepared the creamy white goat’s cheese, a couple of slices of Brie, Stilton, Gruyere, a huge chunk of Gouda that has been stored for more than four years and the piquant Vermont cheddar cheese. With all these flourish spread out on evenly on the dish, coupled with nuts and fruits on the side, your doorbell starts ringing. This is the time that you pop the corks off from the bottle. You already have the Champagne set, and what else should you be preparing that might be good to pair up with cheese? Perhaps you get to open some wine from the collection?
You won’t have to worry about anything that you are going to serve your guests since they will always be delighted that you have gotten your way in preparing all that they need to relish for the night, but there is one part of this situation wherein it can go bad. And this might be regarding pairing your cheeses with wine. It may seem simple at first glance, but it is much more complicated than what you see.
The reason for this is because there isn’t just one type of wine that is going to be paired up with one type of cheese. Every cheese has its variation in moisture content, including flavor, texture and fat. When it comes to wine, its structure, body, sweetness and acidity varies, too. Fortunately for you, there is a guideline, at least the necessary step to follow, on how you can bring your matchmaking spree with wine and cheese to success. As the clock strikes midnight, all the wine and cheese spread out on the table will be brought together by you and your guests as you sing along to the tune of Auld Lang Syne.
Intensity and Age
All the cheeses that have existed up to this day come with a continuous process starting from the freshest all the way to those have gone the hard age. The young cheese – yes, the fresh ones – naturally have higher water content and it comes with a delicate and milky texture. When the cheese starts to age, which is a process referred to as affinage, the moisture it has will eventually evaporate, thus leaving it only with protein and fat. Since both these components carry their flavor, the older cheeses usually have a more savory and creamy flavor.
Added to the concentration and drying of cheese, the age is also one of the elements that introduce flavor into cheese. The bloomy cheese Brie remains spreadable and gooey but has apparently taken in a few earthy flavors since it has been stocked up inside the cave for a couple of months. For older cheeses such as the Emmental and Gruyere, they get the nutty flavors. You must have also seen cheeses that seem to have mold from within, right? Those are blue cheeses, and they develop a kind of pungency due to the mold. Cheeses that are washed like the Epoisses acquire a bacon-like, funky redolence that may make you either hate it or love it.
Just like with cheeses, the wines also have its spectrum starting from the delicate to the bold. Their complexity and depth can even correlate in with the age they have gone through, too. The young wines, like the cheese, are fresh and are considered spirited, coming up with bright flavors and aromas from citrus, spice, herbs, flowers or fruits. The wines that have been left aging in bottle or cask have a chance of acquiring more nuance into their flavor. Added to their primary characters mentioned above, they also took in the secondary notes of minerals, oxidation, earth, toast, oak, umami and much more. The wines also have its savor and complex levels compared to the younger ones.
From the description stated above, you can readily see how the young cheeses are best paired with the fruity, spirited, fresh and juicy ones – the dry roses, crisp whites, sparkling wines and the reds that have good acidity and lively fruit. As with the older cheeses, they are best paired with wines with more levels of complexity and body. The oldest of cheeses, ones that have nutty, rich and savory flavors are paired best with wines that only have a few structure and body, and a few oxidative notes as well. By putting all these complexities together, you will have a good pairing of wine and cheeses, which will be detailed below.
Highly Recommended Pairings
Although age has been emphasized in pairings, it is not the only factor that you should watch out for. The texture, pungency and saltiness of the cheese also plays a role in wine pairing, and also the same with the sweetness and structure of the wine.
Tannins. Red wines with content are excellent with aged and richly-flavored cheeses due to the tannins that have bound to the fat and protein. Thus, it cleanses your palate after every bite you take. But for the very same process may make the tannic wines like it is much astringent when paired with the young cheeses. They are do tie up with what little fat is available I it, thus it gives you that metallic aftertaste and chalky feeling.
Salt and Sweet. What this means is that the sweet wines are best balanced with salty cheeses like the blue cheese, feta cheese, aged Gouda or the hard Grana. The saltiness of these cheeses increases the perception of the wine’s sweetness. Wines that are headed through this makes it a good pairing with such cheeses.
Fruit and Nuts. It might confuse a couple of people about this, but there is a reason why there are tables that decorate their cheese platter with nuts, dried fruits, and fresh fruits. The tangy and juicy flavor of the fruits go well with fresh, young cheeses such as Brie. The sweet, dried fruits are best paired with salty ones like the Stilton while the bitter and buttery nuts are great with the rich cheese Cheddar. From this guide alone, you can pair it up similarly the way wines are, too. All you need is just imagine which of the food is best paired with cheese.
Texture. This is about complementing or contrasting wine and cheese accordingly. The creamy and rich taste cheese are going to blend easily with the oaky, buttery white wines. Thus, it crates a very harmonious sensation in the plate. But it is great to do a good contrasting, too. Have you noticed the sparkling wines creating those bubbles? They are a nice counterpart for the rich cheese. Thus, it will scrub off your tongue totally clean, thus urging your body to take another bite of that cheese. This is why Champagne and Camembert cheese have always been the classic pair.
Growing and Staying Together. Although whatever quote you may have read that is similar to this, if you take a look at the French goat cheese that came from the Loire, it is best paired with the Loire Sancerre. Its mineral, grassy qualities are a perfect complement to such flavor of these cheeses. The Red Burgundy is naturally paired up with the Epoisses. The milk cheese freshly made form cows in which its rind is washed perfectly with brandy that came from the skins of the Burgundian grapes. The hard, milk cheese from the Spanish sheep referred to as Manchego, is great to pair it with Monastrell and Sherry. There are others that tend to match wine and cheeses which don’t work that well most of the time. It isn’t best to serve the fresh Loire cheese with Cabernet Franc of the same place it is made. However, there is no reason if you wish to pair it up by its territory, provided that it will work quite well together, too!
One Wine For All?
There are also those that find the complexity of pairing up wine and cheese to be too tedious. So of course, they are asking whether there is one wine that will pair up with every cheese, no matter what kind of flavor, texture or age they have. One of the highly recommended wine that is paired with a mixture of cheeses is the off-dry Riesling. It has a low alcohol content, but its sweetness, acidity, mineral backbone and tropical fruit factors can be partnered with any cheese.