Wine and Cheese Pairings That Will Rock Your World
Let’s face it, the cheese board and the wine to wash it down with is a glorious thing. In fact, a recent study conducted in France confirmed what we already knew – there’s a certain magic that happens on our palates when we combine glorious wine and heavenly cheese. To inspire wine aficionados and help beginners, we’ve put together these top tips on wine and cheese pairings, to help you navigate and pair the best cheeses with red wine, white wine, rosé or even champagne.
Gruyère with pinot noir
Why it works
This pairing illustrates the principle that you should pair wines and cheeses with equal intensity. The delicate flavours of gruyère could be overwhelmed by a big, bold cabernet sauvignon but pair perfectly with a light pinot noir.
As a general rule:
- Wines over 14.5% ABV taste better with more intensely flavoured cheeses.
- Wines under 12% ABV match nicely with more delicately flavoured cheeses.
Gruyère is classed as a semi-hard washed-rind cheese – it’s nutty but not super intense. An alternative pairing to pinot noir is beaujolais, another lighter red. If you’d prefer a white, then a dry riesling or sauvignon blanc will work well as their acidity will cut through the fat in the cheese.
Gruyère is probably best known as the cheese most commonly used in a fondue (often combined with emmental). This is because the cheese melts really well. If you want a hearty but simple meal that covers all the bases (carbs, protein and veg), then try Mac and Cheese with Leek and Ham Hock. For something lighter, we can really recommend Individual Leek, Potato and Gruyere Filo Pies.
Manchego with rioja garnacha
Why it works
Made from sheep’s milk from the La Mancha region of central Spain, manchego is one of the most famous Spanish cheeses. When it is aged for longer than a year it is known as viejo (manchego fresco is aged for a fortnight and curado is aged for three to six months).
As cheese ages and loses water content, it becomes richer in flavour thanks to its increased fat content. These two attributes are ideal for matching aged cheeses with bold, full-bodied red wines, as the fat content in the cheese counteracts the high tannins in the wine. Tannin is a polyphenol found in fruit skins and seeds, as well as bark, wood, leaves, which have an astringent quality that makes your mouth pucker. They are also present in tea. Rioja is usually made with the tempranillo grape, but a rioja made with the garnacha variety (grenache in France) is an even better fit for fromage. It’s lighter and creamier than the classic rioja and enhances the savoury sweetness of manchego.
You can pair manchego viejo with wines from any wine-growing country, of course, but here we’ll look at Spanish wines. Amontillado or oloroso sherries have a rich nuttiness that matches those flavours in a viejo. Low tannic reds also work well with viejo, so see if you can find a wine made with Spanish bobal grapes that have low tannins. If you’re eating manchego fresco or curado, try pairing with the fresher rioja blanco, albariño, or verdejo.
One of Spain’s national dishes is the tortilla, sometimes called the Spanish omelette. This Spanish frittata features classic onion and potatoes, along with chorizo, peppers and manchego. This rich Mexican-inspired dish, Slow-Cooked Beef Brisket Chilli with Cavolo Nero and Baked Potatoes, comes topped with a lovely generous sprinkling of manchego. Or you could simply eat the cheese with biscuits or bread.
Stilton with port
Why it works
Port is traditionally paired with stilton. Why? The sweetness in the fortified wine helps balance the funkiness of the blue cheese and makes it taste creamier. The smell of the cheese will also help balance the sweet taste of the wine.
Another classic stinky-sweet pairing, this one from across the channel, is sauternes with roquefort, the blue and salty cheese from France.
The basic guideline is that stinky cheese, either blue-veined or rind washed, pairs well with off-dry or sweet wines. So you can pair stilton (or other powerful cheeses) with wines like moscato and gewürztraminer, or late harvest dessert wines such as riesling, sauterne, or tokaji.
Firstly, take a look at one of our favourite combos, the Rozes Port Ruby and the Cropwell Bishop Blue Stilton. Then you might want to consider Apple and Stilton Pork chops. Pork is often paired with apples, and stilton goes well with apples – here all three are combined to marvellous effect.
The flavours of the famous Broccoli and Stilton soup are combined in a delicious Broccoli Stilton Quiche that would go well with a sweet dessert wine on a hot summer’s day.
Brie with champagne
Why it works
Sparkling wines have high acidity and carbonation, which offer a palate-cleansing effect to creamy soft cheeses such as brie, camembert, and cremont. Brie and its close cousin camembert are a bloomy rind cheeses, this is the soft, fluffy and totally edible rind on the outside of the cheese. The grassy, mushroomy flavour of this rind matches the yeasty, fruitiness of champagne.
As soft, creamy cheeses pair well with sparkling wines you could give Italian sparkling wine (known as spumante) and camembert a go. Alternatively, pair the cheese with chablis, the dry white wine from Burgundy that’s made with chardonnay grapes, or an Italian pinot grigio. Finally, the high acidity and notes of red berries in a dry pinot noir rosé offer a similar flavour experience to the classic combination of soft cheeses with redcurrant jelly.
Époisses with Burgundy chardonnay
Why it works
Époisses has been called “the king of cheeses”, and Leonard Cohen once said it’s “the only thing I want to eat”. Luckily, M&S do their own version of this stinky cheese, so you don’t have to go all the way to France to sample it.
Époisses comes from Burgundy and is traditionally paired with red wine from the region. This pairing reminds us that we should trust the locals – what grows together, goes together – so match wines and cheeses made in the same region. We recommend pairing it with white Burgundy, which is almost always chardonnay.
If you’re going for the goat’s cheese local-wine-local-food option, can we suggest making Chicory, Goat’s Cheese and Nduja Tart? It’s remarkably easy to make and tastes amazing. The creaminess of goat’s cheese and mild nuttiness of artichoke combine beautifully to make this Artichoke Frittata with Goat’s Cheese a lovely quick lunch.
We hope you’ve learned some of the best cheeses for wine, or at least the principles that will help you to find your own combinations. One final, but very useful tip: When in doubt a firm, nutty cheese will go with many different wines. Cheeses like gruyère, comté extra, emmental, and gouda have enough fat to counterbalance tannin in red wine, but enough delicacy to compliment delicate whites.