Several weeks back a few friends and I gathered for dinner at a local fine Italian restaurant. We started the evening with a large charcuterie board to share, this eclectic mix of cheeses, cured meats, and dried fruits quickly grabbed the attention of everyone at the table. As we described the flavours and delight this appetizer conveyed for each of us, it was clear that those of us sharing the bottle of wine ordered for the table had differing flavour experiences than those at the table that ordered their own individual glasses of wine.
To simply say that wine and cheese paired correctly has the ability to elevate the individual flavours to new heights would not do the process any justice. Experienced sommeliers spend years understanding the flavour nuances of individual wines and how to best pair them. I do not consider myself a wine expert or a cheese expert for that matter, but my experience at the Italian restaurant that night set me on a journey of discovery.
With the help of a few friends that I do consider experts, we sampled more wine and cheese than I would like to admit. Here are the five best wine and cheese pairings that we enjoyed.
1. Vintage Port and Blue Cheese
As port ages the sweeter it gets, this has to do with the tannins becoming soft and acidity decreasing with time, this makes it a perfect pairing for blue cheese. I prefer a Stilton, but Gorgonzola and Roquefort work just as well.
2. Cabernet Sauvignon and Sharp Cheddar
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most popular red wines as it pairs well with many great dinner options but it also pairs well with a worthy cheese plate. The rich body of a Cab Sav makes it an unbelievable companion of a good sharp Cheddar; this red wine will bring out the bold flavours of a sharp Cheddar. The sharper the better, you can go wrong with an extra sharp Cheddar.
3. Pinot Grigio and Mild Cheese
Pinot Grigio is a light, dry white wine with a fruity flavour that pairs well with Mozzarella and other mild cheeses. Try a fresh Mozzarella di Bufala which has a creamy mild flavour that balances with the acidity and dry fruity flavours of Pinot Grigio.
4. Sauvignon Blanc and Goat Cheese
The citrus notes of this dry, light, white wine pair well with the creaminess of goat cheese giving it a hit of herbal flavours that enhances the overall pairing. For a bit of an extra oomph in your pairing, try a goat cheese that has been infused with garlic and herbs.
5. Chianti and Parmigiano Reggiano
This all Italian pairing complement each other perfectly, this hard, aged cheese has a salted nut flavour that is balanced well with the Chianti’s fruitiness. This is a perfect addition for a cheese plate as both pair well with dried fruits and nuts.
While trying to understand which wine and cheese pairings I enjoyed the most, I received many great pieces of advice; To truly maximize the flavour of the cheese let it sit out for at least 30 minutes prior to tasting, always try the cheese first and enjoy the natural flavour of the cheese before enhancing it with the wine, and so forth. The one piece of advice I would like to share is if you already enjoy a particular cheese or wine, chances are you will enjoy trying these cheese with different wines and vice versa.