There are a lot of things I do right with wine and a couple of things I struggle with. One struggle at the top of my list is pairing wine and cheese. For the life of me I cannot figure out why I have such a tough time doing it.
Not long ago I made a commitment to myself to get much better at selecting wine to go with cheese, as I really enjoy both, either separately or together. Over the weeks and months ahead I intend to share my research and tasting experiences with you. I have selected several cheeses to report on in this blog. I personally like these cheeses. We’ll explore the tastes and give some wine suggestions to pair with each of them.
Brie is near the top of my list of favorite cheeses. Brie is made from the milk of either cows or goats. The cheese originated in northern France in the Middle Ages. The cheese is easily recognizable as it is formed or covered with a white, fluffy, rough textured rind. The rind is eatable along with the soft smooth interior. I really enjoy the mellow nuttiness in the initial taste. Coming after that on the palate are fresh tones of mushrooms and sautéed butter with a creamy smooth finish.
It is best to remove the cheese from your refrigerator about a half hour before you will be eating it. The cheese can be served at room temperature or slightly heated in an oven or microwave.
Below is a list of wines I have compiled to pair with Brie cheese. I have marked (*) the wines I have personally tried and find quite enjoyable with Brie.
- Light reds such as Pinot Noir – older or more aged Brie might require a fuller, more structured red wine. I have paired it with my Glenwood Cellars Merlot. *
- A fruity (dry) rosé. *
- A creamy, slightly oaked Chardonnay. I haven’t tried the pairing, but I have been told that a posh (Old World) white burgundy pairs well.
- Other wines that should pair well with Brie include a lightly oaked Chenin Blanc and a slightly off-dry Riesling. Some Beaujolais will pair nicely if they have a lot of fresh red fruit notes.
Cheddar cheese originated from the village of Cheddar in Somerset in South West England. The cheese has been produced since at least the 12th century.
The cheese is relatively hard (and sometimes crumbly) and is produced from cow milk. Depending on some of the ingredients, the cheese can be white in color or slightly yellow. The best cheddar is matured for at least nine months and preferably longer. The longer it matures the more it loses its moisture and becomes drier and crumblier. The best cheddar is aged 5 to 6 years; for most uses, 3-year-old cheese is fine and tasty.
Cheddar has a number of tastes depending on where it is produced and how long it is aged. Normally, it has a milky, salty taste. It also can produce a tangy, buttery flavor.
The best wines to pair depend on the age of the cheddar. Here are some wine suggestions. Again, I have marked (*) the ones I have personally tried.
- Fruity Cabernet Sauvignons without many tannins. You want them well balanced. *
- A good Argentinian Malbec. You will want the wine to be fruit forward and balanced. *
- A good vintage Port or dessert wine pairs well with cheddar cheese. *
- An oaky Chardonnay also pairs surprisingly well. It brings out the mellowness in the cheese and the fruitiness in the wine. *
- Other wines to try are Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel, Tempranillo and Sangiovese.
Goat cheese is often called by its French name–Chèvre (meaning goat). Like any number of cheeses, goat cheese comes in many different flavors and textures. It is a versatile cheese. Its flavors are tart, with a very soft texture.
In its youth it is earthy and tangy, as it ages it has flavors of hazelnut and dried herbs. Young cheese doesn’t develop a rind while older cheese can have a rough rind similar to Brie and can be in a variety of colors.
The top wines to pair with Goat Cheese (Chèvre) are usually white wines with a bit of tang to them such as:
- Sauvignon Blanc *
Some reds also pair will. Again, they should be a little tangy to work well with flavors of the cheese. I suggest you try:
- Cabernet Franc
- Pinot Noir
The reds have a tendency to drown out the bitterness of the goat cheese. This is due to the fruit flavors and tanginess of the wines. Especially the Cabernet Franc.
One of the great things about having an experienced Chef on your team is the ability to ask questions and get advice. Considering the topic of today’s blog, I thought it would be a good idea to get direction from a person whom pairs wine and cheese all the time. Here are our LEX 530 Executive Chef Chad Coryn’s comments on the topic:
“Two of my go-to cheeses to use on cheese boards would be Midnight Moon, an aged semi-firm goat cheese from Cypress Grove (brand name), and a good, young Spanish Manchego. Midnight Moon has a nutty, buttery finish, and can easily stand up to a dry, fruity Zinfandel. When I serve Manchego, I usually accent the cheese with a bit of quince jam. The sweetness of the jam compliments the dry, salty sheep’s milk cheese and the combination pairs perfectly with a semi-dry, bubbly Spanish Cava.”
As I mentioned earlier, it is my intention to select more cheeses to report on in the near future. That will be part two and maybe we’ll even have a part three and four. While it might seem difficult at first to pair wine and cheese, the most important thing to remember is regardless of what the experts say, always drink the wine you like the best.
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Important Wine Holidays
- February 29 – Open That Bottle Night
- March 3 – National Mulled Wine Day
- April 17 – International Malbec Day
- May 1 – International Sauvignon Blanc Day
- May 9 – World Moscato Day
- May 21 – International Chardonnay Day
- May 25 – National Wine Day
- June 26 – International Rosé Day
- June 21 – Lambrusco Day
- August 1-5 – International Albariño Days
- August 4 – National White Wine Day
- August 18 – International Pinot Noir Day
- September 3 – International Cabernet Day
- September 18 – International Grenache Day
- November 7 – International Merlot Day
- November 12 – International Tempranillo Day
- November 18 – National Zinfandel Day
- November 19 – Beaujolais Nouveau Day
- December 4 – Cabernet Franc Day
- December 20 – National Sangria Day