What to pair with different cheeses

Cheese platter accompaniments serve to enhance the flavour experience as well as cleanse the palette. Suzy O’Regan, dairy product developer at Woolworths believes that the focus should remain on the cheese:

It’s lovely to scatter handfuls of mixed nuts onto a cheese board, everything in abundance. I must say that for me cheese is always the hero, so I am inclined to stay away from preserves and prefer to serve fresh seasonal fruit. Right now berries, sliced cling peaches and grapes work well, but in winter pears, apples, pomegranates and fresh figs!”

Sweet | Suggestions: spiced apple chutney, onion marmalade, sweet chilli jam, fruit preserves, honey and fresh seasonal fruit.

Savoury | Suggestions: marinated olives or tapenade, marinated peppers, basil pesto, harissa, chimichurri (all three delicious options available from Pesto Princess), pickled cucumber, raw or roasted nuts and rocket.

Charcuterie | Biltong, Parma ham, salami and meat pâtés or terrines.

And finally, complete your cheese platter with a selection of thinly sliced French or sourdough bread (the soft texture works beautifully with most cheeses), plain crackers, crostini, Melba toast or bread sticks. It’s important to keep these flavours and textures simple, as you don’t want to detract from the cheese.

If you would like to skip the bread or crackers altogether, small ceramic spoons work brilliantly in serving up bite size portions of your perfect pairings and look pretty, too. To end, some pairing ideas:

Cheddar with pear and cranberry chutney
Gouda, olive tapenade and rocket
Stilton and fresh pink grapes
Drunken pecorino, harissa and roasted almonds
Smoked mozzarella, basil pesto and rosa tomatoes
Chévre, Parma ham and fresh chives

Camembert with fresh cherries
Emmenthaler and pickled cucumber
Mountain cheese, chimichurri and marinated peppers
Blue cheese, biltong and preserved figs
Brie, fresh plum and blueberry with rocket
Parmesan and honey

Three golden cheese serving suggestions:
1. Always serve cheese at room temperature, allowing the flavours and aroma to be at their most intense.
2. Arrange the cheeses, from mild to strong, on a wooden serving board (such as the Jamie Oliver acacia serving board) and include a separate knife (Kitchen Craft) or serving utensil for each cheese.
3. Label each cheese so that your guests know what they’re trying. Ideas include printed labels on wooden skewers [download printable here], labeled wine corks on toothpicks or ice cream sticks with handwritten cheese names.

Suzy O’Regan adds: “I rarely do a pudding or dessert. It’s always the most amazing cheese board, on a wine barrel end, with eight or so cheeses of different types, colours, textures and flavours or strengths served with mixed nuts, fresh seasonal fruit and often with chocolate, Chuckles or nougat too! Works a treat.

And finally, the inclusion of the wonderful fruit of the vine. While pairing cheese and wine can be intimidating, Travis Braithwaite of Seven Steps Wines suggests keeping it simple and allowing your personal preferences to guide you.

Experimentation will lead to your own favourite cheese and wine combinations, but the aim is to avoid having either overpowered by the other. Before getting creative, a good starting point is to pair your mild cheeses with lighter wines and sharp cheeses with full-bodied wines”, says Travis.

A few basic pairing suggestions are:

Champagne or sparkling wine | Brie or Camembert
Chardonnay | Mature cheddar, Emmenthaler, Parmesan or ricotta
Sauvignon Blanc | Goat cheese (such as chévre), Brie, mild cheddar, mozzarella or feta
Cabernet Sauvignon | Camembert, mature cheddar, blue cheese or cream cheese
Pinotage | Gouda or Parmesan
Merlot | Goat cheese or Gruyére
Syrah / Shiraz | Mature cheddar, Edam, Gouda or Parmesan
Sweet red / Dessert wine | Stilton, Gorgonzola, Brie or blue cheese

All that’s left to say is to remember that these are simply guidelines. It is really about what your perfect cheese platter consists of and indulging in something that you’ll love. Enjoy!

Read some more articles about cheese:
Choosing cheese for the perfect platter
Presents with a little thought: Edible Cheese Platter

With thanks to Karen Grandcourt for the images.