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The world of wine and cheese can often be an overwhelming one. Knowing very much about either requires money, time, and a lot of research. If you’re anything like us at Saucey, you’ve probably overspent a bit of cash having eyes bigger than your stomachs when choosing your cheeses at the market or with the local cheese monger…and by the time you get to the wine you’re just ready to eat and grab whatever bottle has the coolest label. We’ve chosen 5 brand name or easy to find styles of cheese and presented their perfect compliment, so whether you’re planning a cheese board for friends or looking for the perfect pairing for a night spent with Netflix, here’s a few pointers to get you going in the right direction.
Boschetto al Tartufo + Mezzacorona Pinot Noir
While it isn’t always possible, a good rule of thumb when pairing wine with cheeses is to stick to the same relative area of production, country or region. Boschetto al Tartufo is without a doubt one of the most decadent and delicious cheeses in production, and we don’t mind stating this opinion as fact. Boschetto is a fresh, semi-soft cheese made with both sheep and cow’s milk and laced with rare white truffles. The flavor is so rich and divine that you don’t want to pair it with anything that might compete with it’s place on the palette, stick to an Italian Pinot Noir or dry Chardonnay for this cheese. You need something astringent enough to cut through the fat and cleanse the palette between bites but subtle enough to share the stage.
Grana Padano (or Parmigiano Reggiano) + Ruffino Chianti
Going back to the same principle we covered with Boschetto al Tartufo, choose your wine according to the same region of a cheese’s production if at all possible. We’ve grouped Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano together for this one because the two have very subtle differences and share a multitude of similarities, and one is usually easier to find than the other depending on the season. Both of these Italian cheese are made with cow’s milk and aged for up to two years, they’re fragrant, hard, salty and flaky with a delicious bite of bright rich flavor at the end. They’ll pair the best with an Italian Chianti, a varietal that isn’t all that exciting by itself but really lends a helping hand when paired with cheeses and olive oil.
Widmer’s 6 Year Aged Cheddar + Chateau St. Jean Merlot
Mostly when we look at wine and cheese pairings, we expect the wine to play second string to the cheese, to support the cheese’s flavors while not making too big of a fuss on it’s own. However, when it comes to an aged sharp cheddar cheese, obviously with a pretty commanding flavor profile of it’s own, a big California red really shines through. A Napa Valley Cabernet would be a safe choice, but a Merlot really nails the pairing. Reach for a Merlot that sits a little sweeter on the palate, with notes of tobacco or milk chocolate, as they will reveal some of the underlying sweetness of a sharp cheddar.
Maytag Bleu + Stag’s Leap Chardonnay
Bleu cheeses are almost always paired with dessert wines, which is unfortunate for the American drinker as we don’t always have good dessert wines to choose from. For a cow’s milk bleu like the name brand Maytag, a fruit forward Chardonnay will also work well here. For the same reason that Bleu cheeses are often served with honey, you would ideally look for a Chardonnay with a bit of this in its flavor profile. The richness of honey and bleu cheese makes for a classic combination, Stag’s Leap Chardonnay fully rounds out the perfect bite. Stag’s Leap Chardonnay has enough fruit intensity and bright acidity to balance against a strong Bleu like Maytag. If the Blue of your choosing is made with goat’s milk rather than cow, consider a Red Zinfandel instead.
Humbolt Fog + Listel Tête de Cuvée Grain de Gris Rosé
Humbolt Fog is one of the most prominent name brand American produced cheeses in circulation, yet it rarely makes it to a cheese board. The subtle, tangy flavor and distinctive layer of edible vegetable ash are a prized combination in this cheese. The floral notes, herbal overtones and a clean citrus finish scream out for a Rosé to further compliment its flavors. Look for a Rosé that finishes with a bite of fruity acidity to complete the flavor profile of the cheese. Humbolt Fog might not sound like the most interesting choice when compared to all of the options presented in either a well curated cheese section of a grocery store or your local cheese shop, but it is really a stellar American cheese. Give it a go next time.
Now, if you’re planning a spread and are going to incorporate a wide range of flavors like the list of cheeses above, you’ll need a universal pairing for all of it. Whenever I piece together a cheese board I always plan for a red and a white wine option, a Pinot Noir from the Pacific North West and an unoaked Chardonnay are always safe choices. Pinots lend their fruit forward flavors to all cheeses and don’t compete for the spotlight. An unoaked Chardonnay is better than a buttery or French oak option as they’re typically much drier and offer a good amount of acidity to balance against the fat of cheese.
Remember that wine and cheese alone are just the tip of the iceberg when creating a spread.
- Italian cheeses long for olives and salt to pair with.
- If you have a bleu on the board you are definitely going to need honey or preserved fruit on the board. Having a tart cherry jam and some roasted or salted nuts helps too.
- I don’t always have a starch option, but having a box of water crackers on hand is always a good idea.
- Prosciutto is the perfect simple meat to pair with cheese and isn’t terribly expensive, no need to fork over a lot of money for fancy cured meats.
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