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The Perfect Pairing: Cheese and Wine
February 1st, 2016
Peggy Fiandaca
Seems like every comfort food I turn to has cheese as an ingredient. Childhood memories of grilled cheese sandwiches or bubbling mac and cheese coming out of the oven make me smile. Now as an adult, at least on most days, cheese is my go-to for that comfort boost. And nothing is more fun than pairing wines with cheese. There are hints to these pairings that bring out the best of both.

According to the World Encyclopedia of Cheese there are general rules “…the whiter and fresher the cheese the crisper and fruitier the wine should be. The heavier, richer soft cheese can be partnered with a big white like a Chardonnay or a light red. The harder and darker the cheese, the heavier and richer the style of wine.”   LDV Winery

However, with today’s varieties of terroir-driven wines and the abundance of handcrafted cheeses I think these rules can bend. The key to pairing is to ensure that the wine and cheese selected shine and neither overpowers.

Putting together the perfect cheese board to pair with just one wine might be tricky. Because it limits your selection of cheeses and wines. Consider hosting a wine and cheese party that allows a broader variety of cheeses that you can curate a variety of wine pairings.

For the cheese selections: Choose several cheeses from a variety of categories (e.g. fresh, soft, semi-soft, washed-rind, hard, and blue). This will provide different textures, colors, and flavors. One thing I dislike is throwing a bunch of red grapes to provide the plate color instead of choosing cheeses to provide the color and interest. Serve fruit separately instead of on your cheese board.

Wine pairing tips: Fresh cheeses such as mozzarella can be overpowered by a big bold wine unless it is on a pizza. So serve a light, crisp Sauvignon Blanc or LDV Winery Sky Island Viognier. When pairing a soft-white cheese think about the nuances of the cheese (i.e. saltiness or creaminess). White soft cheeses with a richer, sweeter taste might pair with similar wines as the fresh cheese but bolder brie cheeses can pair with a fruitier wine such as a Pinot Noir or a Chardonnay.

You can switch to full-bodied wines as you move to firmer, more distinctly flavored semi-soft cheeses. Hard cheeses range in flavors tremendously and therefore, pairing may be tricky. As a general rule the bolder the flavor the bigger the wine. A rose is a beautiful accompaniment to a mild blue cheese while a strong Point Reyes blue cheese can hold its own with an Australian Shiraz or LDV’s Syrah.

Lastly, remember there is nothing wrong with making a meal out of wine and cheese. One of our favorite evenings involves, sipping our Signature Petite Sirah, eating chunks of aged parmesan cheese, breaking off hunks of a fresh Italian baguette, and talking about the day. Now that is comfort.

To learn more about wine and cheese pairing with Curt Dunham, LDV winemaker and Lara Mulchay, cheese monger, register at this link for the February 17, 2016 Sip & Learn workshop at the LDV Wine Gallery.