Wine & Cheese – Pairing the Ancient Couple

Peanut butter and jelly.  Halloween and monsters.  SpongeBob and Patrick.  Some pairings are just classic.  The pairing of wine and cheese can be traced back to ancient times.  It’s only natural, if you think about it.  Both are the product of fermentation, and history seems to tell us these were always in abundance.  But even though this classic pairing has been around for centuries, it’s not quite as clear-cut as it should be.  Wine and cheese pairing is incredibly subjective.  First you have to take into account the flavor profile, as well as texture, of the cheese.  Then do the same for the wine.  Then factor in your own palate (as well as your guests!).  Phew! See how this isn’t an easy task?  You can’t just say that all white wine goes with all of “x” style cheese!

In my three years of working at Bottle King, I have learned more than the average 23-year-old would know about wine and cheese.  On a regular basis I’m helping customers pair their favorite wine with a cheese that will compliment each other well.  I’m going to share with you some guidelines that I use to assist you with pairing!

  • First you’ll need to determine your cheese’s main flavor profile.  Sweet cheeses tend to increase the tartness or bitterness in wine.  Acidic or tangy cheeses will make a wine taste fruitier or more mellow than it is.  Salty cheeses counteracts any bitterness found in wine and also makes it taste fruitier.  Bitter cheeses usually bring out the bitterness even more in wine.
  • Remember that old idea that only red wines pair with cheese?  Well, forget it!  White wines pair wonderfully with cheese because they are high in acidity, which helps to cut through the butterfat of the cheese.  If you’re going to pair a red wine with cheese, try choosing one that is high in acidity or fruity in flavor.
  • Pungent cheeses often have a powerful flavor.  Strong cheeses should be paired with strong wines so one flavor is not lost on the other.
  • Veined cheeses tend to be strong, therefore should be balanced with a sweeter wine such as Port.
  • Be careful when Googling. The internet is a great place to help you figure out a good pairing.  But many of the “pairing charts” out there lump together a wine and a cheese.  For example, I have seen Cabernet lumped with Gouda.  This is a great starting point, but Cabernet can have many different flavor profiles, as can Gouda–is it a baby Gouda? Young Gouda? Super aged Gouda?  You can see the predicament.  Now, this is not to say that these charts are completely wrong–just use them as a starting point and proceed with caution.
  • Remember, if you are completely lost and not sure where to start, ask your friendly cheese lead!  We are more than happy to assist you in pairing–in fact, we love it when you talk cheesy to us! 😉

In the coming weeks I’m going to be doing some posts on pairings that are more specific to the cheeses and wine that we carry here at Bottle King, so stay tuned!

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