Throwing a fete, or just always wanted to know how to choose the right wine for your feta? Before you dive in to the world of wine and cheese pairings, here’s a few things to keep in mind. With these tips, you’ll be a pro in no time!
First, the cheese
Cheeses can generally be sorted into a few major categories: soft, semi-soft, firm, blue-veined, and fresh. Within those, you can also add in aging (or sharpness) and smoking, both of which will change the intensity of a cheese’s flavor.
Wine, too, can be organized by type
Sweetness, acidity, tannins, fruit, and body all have a factor in a wine’s flavor. These qualities dictate how well a wine and a cheese pair together. For instance, a very sharp, aged cheese is best with a full-bodied wine—they’ll both have a strong profile and the flavors will balance each other out, instead of one overwhelming the other.
Try experimenting with different pairings
Pick one cheese and try it with a few different wines, or vice versa. You’ll see how different flavor qualities complement one another, and taste which go together best.
Another thing to consider? The fixin’s!
Cured meats, nuts, honey, fruits, and even pickled vegetables are a great addition to a cheese board. The same idea applies here, too—it’s all about balance. Fruit and honey are great with saltier cheeses, while pickled veggies and salami benefit from a brighter, milder companion.
Our favorite wine and cheese pairings
Ready to throw your own wine and cheese party? Follow our handy cheat sheet, and find a few pairings from around the world to get you started.
Manchego + Rioja
Manchego—a Spanish cheese made with sheep’s milk—has a rich, nutty profile that’s a perfect complement to a fruity, full-bodied red Rioja, which is made from tempranillo grapes in northern Spain.
Camembert + Prosecco
Like brie, camembert is a French cow’s-milk cheese with a bloomy (that means soft and edible) rind, but it has a slightly stronger, earthier flavor. Prosecco–the Italian bubbly–is our pick here for its hint of sweetness.
Sharp cheddar + cabernet sauvignon
Cabernet is a high-tannin wine, which means it’s drier than red wines like pinot and garnacha. You’ll taste its full-bodied quality, which balances the “funky” flavor of a sharp cheddar cheese. Cabernet sauvignon is one of the world’s most widely produced wines, but California’s Napa Valley is especially famous for its cab.
Chèvre + sauvignon blanc
This pairing is a match made in… France’s Loire Valley. Sauvignon blanc and chèvre (that’s French for goat cheese) are specialties of the region. They share a light, springy flavor that makes them great companions.
Bleu cheese + Port wine
Port is a fortified wine, meaning it’s mixed with brandy during fermentation, which keeps the sugar levels higher. Its origins are, as its name suggests, in Portugal—specifically, the city of Porto. The wine is sweet and bold, making it the perfect match with a salty, sharp bleu cheese like Stilton or Roquefort.
Have a wine and cheese pairing question for the experts? Want to expand your palate on a Food & Wine Tour? Let us know in the comments below!