Red and Bleu: Quick Tips for Wine & Cheese Pairing

Whether it’s good old-fashioned American-style Macaroni and Cheese, a hearty bowl of Parmigiano Vacche Rosso or a Swiss fondue featuring pungent cheese cousins Gruyere and Raclette, almost every one of my favorite dishes to cook and share with others features some type of world-class cheese. From mild to rich to pungent, runny to silky smooth to granular, the beauty—and challenge—of cooking with cheese is its almost unlimited variety. Even within the same kinds of cheeses, there are wide variations in taste, texture and personality relating to the age of the cheese and the method of its creation.

Some cheese when melted becomes grainy. Others grow noticeably stronger or refuse to melt evenly or fully. Substituting different types of cheese in recipes can be a tricky business, so before striking out on your own, follow the advice of chefs and experts and profit from their understanding of the cheese’s history, taste, personality and behavior in the kitchen.

Selecting wine pairings for cheese dishes or individual cheeses can be a dizzying exercise. Simplify the search by identifying the cheese’s country of origin and let it guide your selection of wine.

  • The premium Chiantis of Tuscany, made from the Sangiovese grape, pair well with Asiago, Mozzarella and Ricotta, and go brilliantly with creamy, hard and matured Tuscan cheeses like Pecorino Romano and Pecorino.
  • Hearty fall recipes like cheese soups that feature Gouda, Monterey Jack or varieties of smoked cheese, a light red with good tannins, like a Blaufrankisch from Austria, is a worthy pairing.
  • A full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon with its big fruity flavors is wonderfully versatile and goes great with Danish Blue crumbled over a salad, Sharp Cheddar paired with fruit, or a soft Camembert served with dark bread.
  • Chardonnay, among the most popular white wine grapes in the world, brings its mix of buttery, nutty and smoky flavors together with hints of apple, melon and vanilla for wines that go great with creamy cheeses like Brie, triple-crème and Bûcheron, and hard cheeses like Gruyere and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
  • Goat cheese and Sauvignon Blanc are a fantastic combination. The pleasant acidity of the wine is a perfect match for the texture and piquant taste of the cheese. Pasta dishes and salads that incorporate goat cheese, particularly those with fresh basil or tarragon, are especially good with Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Gruner Veltliner is a dry and crisp, mostly light to medium-bodied wine with a nice touch of spice. It pairs well with almost any kind of food, even difficult foods like artichoke and asparagus. It’s especially nice with mild flavored cheeses like Swiss, Muenster and Boursin.

Remember that not all individual pairings you select will be ideal, but with thousands of wine and cheese possibilities out there, a little experimentation and taste for adventure is sure to reward you with some extraordinary taste experiences.