There’s no doubt that wine and cheese are intrinsically maligned. Often forced into arranged marriages, a la commodity wine with pasteurized products from plastic packages at a dinner party near you, wine and cheese is rarely inspiring. It’s hard to mesh 2 flavours that are so strong. It’s this same principle that makes Indian and Chinese food so hard to pair with wine. We keep coming back to the pairing not just because the concept is so entrenched, but because it is enjoyable to indulge in such decadence, and occasionally there are truly inspired choices that improve both the wine and the cheese.
Young, fresh, and vigorous wines are usually the way to go; the delicate complexities of mature vintages will get washed away even by the subtlest of cheese. In fact cheese can be a nice foil to tannic young red monsters, similar to the way that peppered red meat can tame a young red wine.
In assembling my list of favourites, I’ve stuck to cheese that is widely available. And I’ve stayed away from the wines that we don’t really drink that often, like dessert and fortified, and stuck to table wines. I’ve also omitted Brie and Camembert entirely, which are the worst offenders of wine-torture at the aforementioned dinner parties. These are guidelines based on specific pairings I’ve had that really struck me as inspired choices.
- Chevre, Soft Goat Cheese with Riesling – 2007 Zilliken Riesling Kabinett
- Feta, Greek Curd Cheese with Sauvignon Blanc – 2010 Springfield Estate Life From Stone
- Gruyere, Hard Swiss with Chardonnay – 2008 Andre Bonhomme Vire-Clesse
- Havarti, Danish Cow Cheese with Beaujolais Cru – 2009 Jadot Beaujolais-Villages
- Parmigiano-Reggiano, Parmesan with Sangiovese – 2006 Selvapiana Chianti
- Manchego, Spanish Sheep Cheese with Traditional Rioja – 2001 La Rioja Alta Vina Arana
- Cheddar, Aged English with Languedoc Carignan – 2005 Mas Gabinele Faugeres
- Iberico, Central Spanish Blend with strong Iberian Reds – 2003 Aster Crianza Ribero del Duero
- Le Marechal, Herb Rubbed Swiss with Cabernet Franc – 2006 Charles Joguet Clos de la Cure
- Cantal, French Cow’s Cheese with Bordeaux – 2004 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte