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Wine and Cheese Pairings 101

Welcome to lecture, foodies: Today you learn about palete sophistication.

Wine and Cheese Pairings 101

Photo by Jocelyn Hsu

When it comes to wine and cheese, it’s a whole new territory of gourmet and connoisseurship—and for good reason. Both are delicious, complex in taste and quite the delicacy in many world cuisines. Pairing the two correctly and experimenting with new combinations are what make those oh-so sophisticated “Wine and Cheese Nights” even in the dingiest apartments popular. It is hardly complicated; rather, pairing is up to personal preferences and taste. And it’s not just for show if you get the wine-and-cheese formula right. To help your taste buds out, read these good rule-of-thumbs when it comes to pairing wine and cheese, and start exploring by selecting a few of the many recommendations out there. Don’t worry, you can actually pull this off without toasting your glass to a pitiful bank account.

Photo by Jocelyn Hsu

Photo by Jocelyn Hsu

Pro tips:

White wine is reputably better paired with cheeses than red wine. This is due to the greater levels of tannin within reds, an element that gives black teas its “dry-mouth” metallic taste and feel. Whites also have higher levels of acidity, a desired trait The Kitchn describes as a “bright, mouthwatering sensation” and lighter body. When pairing wine and cheese, the flavors should equally complement or contrast. That balance is essential to the full enjoyment of the combination.

Harder cheeses can handle more tannin. In other words, firmer cheeses such as Cheddar and Muenster are more likely to stand up to the hardy taste of red wines, as opposed to bloomy, more delicate soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert. The stronger reds can complement firm cheeses without overwhelming them.

Try pairing wines and cheeses from the same region as a reliable starting point, as those combinations are almost always guaranteed to work well together (i.e. Italian wine with Parmesan).

Contrasting salty cheeses with sweet wine, and vice versa, can also yield great results.

Photo by Jocelyn Hsu

Photo by Jocelyn Hsu

Below are “safe” recommendations to start with. If you’re feeling adventurous, and love soft cheeses such as Brie with its buttery texture, pair with an old red wine. Likewise, don’t strictly veer away from pairing a firmer, vibrant Asiago with excellent white wine. Just because you usually drink Two-Buck Chuck doesn’t mean you can’t up your wine game. Taste, experiment boldly and enjoy!

Merlot (Red) : Gouda, Cheddar, Gorgonzola, Gruyere, Jarslberg, Parmesan

Pinot Noir (Red): Feta, Gruyere, Monterey Jack, Muenster, Port Salut, Swiss

Chardonnay (White): Brie, Camembert, Chévre (goat cheese), Gouda, Provolone

Champagne (White, Sparkling): Beaufort, Brie, Cheddar, Chévre, Colby, Edam

Dessert Wine (Sweet): Créme Fraîche, Marscapone, blue cheese

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