Cheese and Wine Matching

Last night was one of my favourite tastings – cheese and wine matching. This one is always enjoyable, not just because I love cheese and wine, but also because the endless combinations means there are always new ways to try things!

The feedback on the combinations yesterday seemed to be particularly successful, with the guests saying that each of the combinations tasted better together than on their own. Now this is really the goal of all food and wine matching, but can be trickier to achieve than you might expect! Not least because everyone has their own preferences and tastes, which can vary greatly. However, as a result of this feedback, I thought I’d share each of the pairings and why I put them together:

Saumur Sparkling and Vacherin
The sparkling is from the Loire Valley: made in the traditional Champagne method, but with different grape variety – Chenin Blanc. While lovely and delicate, it has a lovely apply flavour, slight floral hint and smoky note. This was paired with a creamy Vacherin. The acidity and bubbles in the wine cut through the cheese which has a high fat content. The spruce and floral flavours of the cheese complemented the flavours of the wine.

Falanghina and Goats Cheese
Sauvignon Blanc may be a more traditional match for this cheese, but I am always trying to use different whites in my tastings, so opted for a Falanghina from Italy. With a similar characteristic freshness, it has a slightly more herbal note, alongside the citrus and green fruit flavours. It works well with goats cheese as again the acidity in the wine cuts through the creamy texture, and actually the wine balances the higher level of natural acidity found in goats cheese. The citrus flavours add to the sense of freshness.

Chardonnay and Norwegian Jarslberg
I went for an oaked Aussie Chardonnay with this much, the combination of stone fruit and tropical fruit flavours, with the nutty notes and a creamy texture, matched well with a semi-hard cheese. The creamy, nutty notes in the wine were mirrored in the cheese, making the combination feel very harmonious.

Pinot Noir and Comte
Moving on to the reds, the first was a Pinot Noir. Traditionally a light bodied, light tannin red, the example I used from Burgundy was not exception! As it is a lighter style, choosing a cheese that wouldn’t be too over powering, but would still have enough complexity of flavour to match was the challenge. So I went for a French Comte. This is a hard cheese and so can stand up to wines with a bit of tannin, but it’s delicate spiciness and fruitiness matched really well the spicy, earthy flavours in the wine.

Southern French blend and Cheddar
The blend I used had some Merlot, Cabernet, Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. So it really was a full bodied, hearty style of wine! It had much higher tannins than the Pinot, although they were quite smooth, and had loads of fruit and dark spice flavour. It was enjoyable to drink by itself, but the Cheddar just made it so much better! The protein in the cheese softens the tannin and emphasises the flavour of the wine, and having a mature cheese means the flavour is bold enough to match.

Sauternes and blue cheese
This is one of my favourite food and wine matches ever, and I generally use it on tastings wherever possible! Sauternes is a dessert wine from Bordeaux, but is made using grapes affected by Botrytis, which allows the water to evaporate from the grape, and leaves the concentrated sugars, acids, and flavours behind. This means that when the wine is made, it is sweet, intense but still has a refreshing acidity, rather than being cloying. When tasted with a creamy, salty blue cheese the effect is like a flavour explosion! The contrast of salty and sweet, and creamy texture versus acidity is just a great effect. You will have to try it if you don’t believe me.

So as a very brief explanation I hope that gives some insight as to what goes together and why. But of course the proof is in the tasting! What works for me might not work for everyone. And on that note I would love to know if anyone has some favourite cheese and wine combos that they would like to share? I’ve told you mine, now you can tell me yours!

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