Wine and cheese share many similarities. Thumb through books about cheese and you might be surprised to find terms similar to those in your wine vocabulary: fermentation, acidity, light-bodied versus full-bodied and region identity. Cheese also expresses “terroir,” the connection between a milkproducing animal and its environment. And as with wine, cheese takes on characteristics based on age — in its youth straightforward, less complex, and with age more complexities and depth.
The most noticeable similarity of wine and cheese is that each offers a vast array of choices, particularly when it comes to pairing. Anyone who has set out to the supermarket or wine shop to match cheeses and wines can attest to the limitless options. The matches were easier in the past when the primary rule was “eat cheese and wines that share the same home.” This rule would have you match Italian Gorgonzola with Chianti and French brie with Champagne. But the rule is not as useful when trying to pair wine with cheese made in Wisconsin, a state known for superb cheese but with no reputation for wine.
The rule is still a good starting point. When it can’t be invoked, let your taste buds be your guide.
To get you started, here are some suggested pairings featuring popular cheeses.
Explorateur or brie
- NV Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc de Blanc, Washington (about $15 retail)
- NV Piper Heidsieck Brut, France (about $30 retail)
Gruyere, Parmesan or Manchego
- 2008 Geyser Peak Winery Sauvignon Blanc, California (about $12 retail)
- 2008 Honig Sauvignon Blanc, California (about $18 retail)
- 2007 Cellar No. 8 Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $13 retail)
- 2007 Raymond R Collection Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $28 retail)
Roquefort, Stilton or other blue cheese
- NV Cockburn’s Fine Tawny Port, Portugal (about $16 retail)
- NV Taylor Fladgate 10 year Tawny Port, Portugal (about $42 retail)