The Only Wine and Cheese Pairing Cheat Sheet You Need
Certain foods are unquestionably better together: tomatoes and basil, French fries and ketchup, peanut butter and jelly, and wine and cheese. Can you guess which is our favorite combination? Seriously, they're a perfect pair: the aromas and acidity in wine serve as a palate cleanser between bites of cheese, helping cut the fat that coats the mouth.
We’ll take any excuse to throw together a solid cheese board, so here’s an expert guide to pairing wine and cheese like a pro. To make sure our list was legit, we consulted Wisconsin Cheese certified expert, Elena Santogade. Here, she dishes on the foolproof wine and cheese pairings to have at the ready when entertaining—or not. “Pairing artisanal cheese with the right wines can elevate the flavors and take your tasting experience to the next level, so be sure to select varieties that complement each other for optimal indulgence,” she says.
When you're serving:
Organize the order. Order your tastings from lightest mouth feel and lowest alcohol content. By working your way toward the heaviest and most complex tastes, you’ll be able to enjoy the experience without running the risk of lighter tastes being overpowered by stronger, bolder flavors.
Serve (and store) at the right temp. Room temperature is ideal when tasting cheeses. In order to experience the full range of notes and flavors, be sure to remove your cheese from the fridge with enough time to come to room temperature before you taste.
Maintain balance. The cheese should not overwhelm the wine, and the wine should not overwhelm the cheese. Think about matching levels of intensity and you'll be off to a great start. “The pairing rule of 'like with like' rings true when pairing wine and cheese,” Santogade says. For example, pair sparkling wine with a delicate, soft cheese.
Take your time. There is no right or wrong way to enjoy a pairing, but as a general rule, taste the cheese, then taste the drink, then try together as a pairing. Also, be sure to take time as you taste. Breathe through your nose as you taste, and notice the aromatics and flavors of the cheese, the wine and how the pairing mingles together.
When you're pairing:
White Wine + Gouda Cheese. A Sauvignon Blanc is a solid choice here. It has citrus notes and tropical flavors which make for a youthful, elegant and fresh taste with a lingering, zesty finish. Our pick for a Gouda is Marieke Young Gouda—young, aged, smoked or flavor infused.
Sparkling White + Blue Cheese. Bubbles are actually a fun, forgiving pairing partner. Match a dry sparkling white with crisp acidity with a blue cheese, like Hook’s Original Blue. "Blue cheese can be very intense, flavor-wise. With high acidity and that strong blue flavor, a full-bodied white wine can help mellow things out and still highlight what's great about the blue. Plus, if you pair with a sparkling white you'll have an interesting textural pairing too," says Santogade.
Rosé + Parmesan Cheese. Choose a Provençal-style rosé with delicate flavors of strawberry, rose petals, and herbs. Its bright, refreshing acidity will make it a perfect fruity companion with Parmesan. Our pick for a Parmesan is Black Creek Cheddar Cheese with Parmesan Notes.
Red Wine + Colby Cheese. We love a big, bold cabernet sauvignon with flavors of blueberry, blackberry, and toasty vanilla layered with notes of espresso. These bold flavors will pair perfectly with a mild cheese like Colby, like Arena Cheese Colby Longhorn.
When in doubt, remember these three things:
Fresh is best. Fresh, milky, mild cheeses (like mozzarella or mascarpone) make a wonderful pairing canvas for rosé. Avoid pungent cheeses (like Munster) that could overwhelm the delicate flavors in the wine.
Skip the sweet. Reach for dry wines over sweeter bottles. The acidity in dry wines helps to balance the richness in the cheese. While a sweet wine can be a fun pairing with super bold cheeses (think big blues), dry wines are more versatile for many different cheeses and give you more to play with in terms of variety.
White is more forgiving. The tannins in red wine can be harsh and abrasive up against the wrong cheese, so make sure to pair reds with full flavored cheeses that have a good balance of acidity and fat.