A classic food and beverage combination has, and will always be, cheese and wine. Done right it is heaven in your mouth, done wrong it can be the clash of the Titans.
Cheeses vary greatly in flavor, texture, fat and moisture content. Wines, too, vary in acidity, sweetness, body and structure.
A few basic guidelines can create a match made in heaven.
Cheese lies along a continuum from fresh through hard –aged. Young cheese is moist and creamy. As cheese ages the moisture evaporates, leaving behind fat and protein.
Fats and proteins are the perfect vehicle for flavour. Age concentrates flavour, and depending on the method of aging, can impart nutty, pungent, earthy and funky tastes and smells to the cheese.
Likewise wine starts out young and fresh with lively aromas and bright flavours. As wine ages it develops notes of earth, toast, minerals, umami, and more.
With this bit of knowledge under our belts we can see that young cheese should pair well with juicy, fresh and fruity wines. Some examples would be; dry rose’s, crisp whites like Sauvignon Blanc, lively Pinot Noirs or almost anything sparkling. Young cheeses include Chevre, Mozzarella, Brie and Bucheron.
Older cheese needs older wines. Bolder, more complex wines will not be overpowered by complex cheese. Try Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon with aged cheeses like Asiago, Aged Cheddar, Manchego and Comte.
Softer reds like Shiraz and Malbec pair well with the mid range aged cheese like Gruyere, Havarti and young Cheddar.
As with any guidelines there will always be exceptions. In this case stinky cheese needs to be paired with a demure wine. This way the wine will not compete but compliment. For example one would pair a potent chunk of Morbier with a fresh and fruity Gewurztraminer.
Blue cheese is another exception, best paired with Port, sherry or dessert wines.
There are a couple of wines that will partner broadly with a wide range of cheese. The noble Riesling has a perfect balance of acidity, sweetness and mineral backbone to compliment or contrast most cheese. Sparkling wines also work well. Their ample acidity and toasty aromas compliment cheeses from fresh through aged.
Pairing wine and cheese by flavour intensity, keeping in mind those exceptions, will bring about a taste experience that has been lauded through the ages.
Lucky’s Liquor Gourmet Mezzanine will be having a wine and cheese pairing event on Thursday, April 14, 2016 at 7 PM. Purchase your tickets here.