How to pair cheese with wine
They say age only matters if you’re a cheese, and with cheese, age really does matter. As cheeses age, they take on riper, more nutty flavours. These are best paired with wines that have the body and structure to match – a young, fresh Sauvignon Blanc would work well with a light, fresh ricotta, but a full bodied Merlot would work better with a mature cheddar.
You know that dry feeling that some wines (and black tea) can leave behind in your mouth? Those are tannins. They bind with fat and protein helping to clean the palate after each bite. Hard, aged, full fat cheese, like Parmesan or Pecorino, will work well with tannin-rich wines like Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon.
Fruit and nuts
No, we’re not talking chocolate here. There’s a reason we pile the cheese board with fresh and preserved fruit and nuts. Think of your favourite combinations, say blue cheese and fig or pear and brie, then use those combinations to sleuth out a wine. Blue cheeses work well with port, because it has sweet, strong, jammy flavours, much like figs. Brie works well with older Sauvignon Blancs or Viognier, as their fresh, fruity notes mimic the lightly fruity pear.
One great rule to stick to is complement or contrast. We often talk about a wine as being light or delicate – these wines are better with soft, fresh cheese, like ricotta. Heavier, more full bodied wines match well with heavier, riper cheese. Think wooded chardonnay with Emmenthaler. Rich, creamy cheeses complement buttery, smooth wines but also work well with the contrasting bright, fresh flavours of bubbling MCC. Rather than mirroring the flavours, the MCC pairing will scrub the palate clean after each bite of cheese.
So after all that, is there not one wine that will go well with a wide variety of cheeses? Yes, there is. MCC (or champagne, if that’s your thing) has a light, bright, bubbly palate that will go with the widest variety of cheeses. It’s fairly neutral so, while it won’t be perfect with everything, it shouldn’t be obnoxious with anything. That, and it’s an excuse to open another bottle of bubbles with all of that wonderful cheese.