Sipping a glass of wine whilst tucking into a cheese board is one of life’s great pleasures and cheese is one of the first foods most think of when combining with wine. But there is far more to this pairing than just opening any old Port you find at the back of your drink’s cupboard. For example, would you believe me if I said that white wine is generally a better match for cheese than red?
There’s so much to consider, that matching these two can be a bit of a minefield.
Who would have thought you have to consider how much moisture is left in the cheese? How long has it been aged for? How strong are the flavours?
To illustrate the vast array of wine matches with cheese, I’m going to highlight 6 of my absolute favourites here that can be used as a base when organising the ultimate cheese and wine evening.
Number 1 on my list is Goats’ cheese.
Goats’ cheese (or Chèvre in France) can be made in a variety of styles. Whilst goats’ milk has a similar fat content to cows’ milk, it has higher levels of fatty acids which attribute to its slightly tart flavour. Famously made in Loire in France, this cheese has an affinity with Sauvignon Blanc that goes beyond them being local siblings.
Therefore, look no further than our Les Maselles Sauvignon Blanc or if you’re feeling fancy – our Pruniers Sancerre. Both have a zippy tang to them that cuts through the fat in the cheese but also balances the tart flavour perfectly. These wines will also match a soft feta, mascarpone or ricotta.
Number 2 is Comté.
I dread to think how much of this I eat in a year and it always features on my cheese board. This rich and savoury cheese has a nutty and buttery taste. So I immediately jump to a white Burgundy or equivalent rich white. Oak ageing imparts buttery, toasted and almond-like flavours to white wines which complement Comté perfectly.
There are a range of options to choose from, but my top 3 picks would be; Ken Forrester’s Petit Chenin Blanc, Fowles Are You Game? Chardonnay and Seresin Estate Organic Chardonnay depending on your budget. Instead of Comté, you could sub in an aged Gruyère, a vintage Cheddar or a good Manchego.
Number 3 is Stilton.
There’s no way I could leave this classic out with its rich, creamy texture and salty, nutty and complex flavours. Despite gaining a PDO status, it hilariously can’t be called Stilton if it comes from the village of Stilton!?
As this is a salty and savoury cheese, I would always go with something sweet. Balancing sweet and salty combinations is heavenly and matching Stilton with Tokaji was one of my first ‘wow’ moments in food and wine.
My best pick would be our Patricius Katinka Late Harvest Tokaji, but either of our Quinta do Crasto LBV Port and Barbi Vin Santo would be amazing as well. Feel free to substitute in Gorgonzola, Danish Blue or Roquefort for an equally delicious combo!
Number 4 – Brie.
It took me a while to truly appreciate Brie and I think most of that is down to it being served too cold. Once this cheese hits room temperature and starts to ooze, it really comes into its own. Brie is creamy, buttery and mild so offers a lighter style of cheese to your selection. Give this a go with either Fontanafredda Pradalupo Arneis or Drouhin Chablis for a luxurious match.
Alternatively, for those of you wanting to try something a bit different, partner this with a dry Xeco Fino Sherry – you won’t be disappointed! These matches work equally well with other soft cheeses like Camembert.
Number 5 - Epoisses.
I once spent a week wine tasting in Burgundy and genuinely ate this every day, I just couldn’t stop. It’s a truly stinking cheese and whilst it’s creamy, it packs a real savoury punch. Being produced in Burgundy gives us an easy wine matching task. If it’s white, you need an oaked, powerful Chardonnay to match this cheese, but my recommendation would be a Pinot Noir. Go with Joseph Drouhin Bourgogne Pinot Noir or Seresin Estate MOMO Organic Pinot Noir. Feel free to sub in Reblochon or Taleggio cheese as well.
Number 6 – smoked cheese.
These are notoriously difficult to partner with wines. These central European classics develop a powerful aroma due to the smoking process over a long period of time. So balancing this strong aroma with a wine moves me to recommended bold and aromatic white wine styles.
Try Trimbach’s Riesling for one of the most iconic wines from Alsace, or alternatively these aromatic blends will work beautifully - Domaine Cazes Canon du Marechal White and the d’Arenberg Stump Jump White Blend.
Red wines have barely been touched upon here, so for those of you that think I’m crazy, give some of the above recommendations a try first. If you’re still not convinced and want to match cheese with a more powerful and deep red wine, then have a stab at a very aged hard cheese like vintage Cheddar or a top quality Gruyère. As these cheeses age, they lose moisture and develop a higher protein content, which works well with the deeper tannins in a strong red wine. Enjoy!