Pairing Wine and Cheese


Cheese and wine have a centuries-old tradition as a made-in-heaven match. Most often wine continues to be the beverage of choice when serving cheese. Gastronomes insist there is a scientific reason for the combination. Balance in the mouth is achieved because the high fat, high protein in cheese is modified by the wine’s astringency.  W like to think the combination rests on the fundamental idea that wine and cheese have a something in common. They both start as raw products that go through fermentation. One great advantage of their union is that cheese and wine can be enjoyed with little or no preparation.

Few hard and fast rules exist to dictate which wines go best when faced with the wide spectrum of cheese and myriad wine choices. That said, here are  several suggestions, understanding that they are the mere tip of the proverbial iceberg because the problem comes about when following the advice of cheese experts who recommend an assortment of different styles when serving cheese to company.

Therefore, one way to simply the situation is to match wine and cheese from the same region, although that requires some intensive research and a level of sophistication. There’s a lot of room for crossing over the boundaries set by “experts.” In general, white wines go better with many cheeses than reds. As a rule, young, fresh cheese like Triple or double cremes, fresh goat cheese, mozzarella and ricotta match well with crisp, fruity white wines –  Vouvray from the Loire Valley with its light sparkle, Sancerre, Sauvignon blanc, Chenin blanc, Champagne or a sparkling wine like Cava. Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio are perfect with creamy blue, bloomy rind and Alpine cheeses, brie, and gouda that begin to show more intense flavors. Sweet wine like a Gewurtztraminer contrasts very well with a cheese with high acidity, some blue cheeses, and Munster.

Within the red category, fruity, light red wines such a Pinot noir are especially suited to soft cheeses, especially goat cheese. Very salty cheese looks for a wine with good acidity. Roses and Beaujolais complement  soft goat cheese and buttery styles. More full-bodied reds like Merlot, Chianti and Cabernet Sauvignon are excellent choices with Gouda, Cheddar and other hard, aged cheeses with sharpness and complex flavors.

My personal advice is to uncork a favorite bottle and get it to the right temperature. Unwrap the cheese and take it out of the refrigerator bringing them to room temperature. And if this is all to confusing, serve beer.







Pairing Wine and Cheese




Cheese and wine have centuries-old traditions of being partnered together as an extremely compatible match. There are no hard and strict rules about which wine should be selected to accompany a particular cheese as the best selections are almost always based on individual tastes. Fortunately, there are no hard and strict rules about which wine to match with a particular cheese. Rather, it pays to experiment and let your individual taste and judgment be the best guide. However, here are some helpful guidelines.

First, consider matching wines and cheeses from the same region. As a rule, the whiter and fresher the cheese the crisper and fruitier the wine should be. Note that a whiter and fresher cheese goes well with a crisp, fruity wine and in general, white wines go better with many cheeses than reds. Within the red category, choose fruity, light red wines that are especially suited to soft cheeses, especially goat cheese. Champagnes make a fabulous combination with bloomy white rinds. Very salty cheese looks for a wine with good acidity. Sweet wine contrasts very well with a cheese with high acidity.

If it’s still confusing, beer or cider are great alternatives.


The Serving Temperature For Wines

At what temperature does a wine show its best? It’s  commonly thought to serve white wines on the cool side and reds warmer. But what exactly do cool and warm mean? Whites and roses should definitely be served on the cooler side, around 50 to 55 degrees F. But often restaurants bring a bottle to the table covered with frosty moisture . Also home fridges keep the wine at around35-45 degrees F. It means the cold blocks the aromas and tastes until the wine warms up a bit. It’s possible to warm the wine by cupping the glass with  two hands for a moment, but in any case eventually the wine will reach ambient room temperature. That’s the reason why once served the bottle is placed in an ice bucket.
Red wines are said to be best at room temperature but in most American homes, and even crowded restaurants the temperature hits 75 and above. The correct temperature for serving red wine is somewhere between 60 and 65 degrees F. That’s the temperature of a house  cellar  (or in the old days, the cellar of a monastery or castle). In the hot summer days of Napa Valley,it’s common to see winemakers and serious drinkers drop a couple of ice cubes in their red wine to get it at its most palatable best.The bottom line, however, is that serving temperature is largely based on personal preference.

Questions About Sulfites In Wine

Many wine consumers are nervous when they read labels that indicate wines contain sulfites. The U.S government mandates wines sold in the U.S. carry the warning although many other countries don’t have the same requirement. Sulfites are found naturally in wine although some winemakers add additional amounts to wine as a preservative. Sulfites are found in most fermented products: beer, cheese, bacon, olives, and dried fruit to list just a few.  About 1% of the population who suffer from asthma, allergies, or sensitivity to sulfites develop wheezing, hives, or swelling in the throat.

Wine drinkers often blame sulfites for their headaches. There is no scientific proof for the claim, although many people avoid red wine in particular, citing sulfites as the culprit. It’s very possible histamines are the real cause, although tannins may have to take their share of the blame. Tannins are found in grape skins and seeds, and oak barrels in which wines are aged. Alcohol is also a trigger, so look for wines that have low percentages of alcohol always marked somewhere on the front of back label in small print. Avoid wine with alcohol levels above 14%. This big wine bombs with 16%+alcohol are hazardous to your health. They are hot on the tongue, making them poor matches with food.


Hibernating Grapes

Terroir, those elements of nature including sunshine, wind, soil, rainfall, etc. are factors that impact on grapes. It’s easy for even the untrained eye to be aware of what’s happening in a vineyard once spring renews the cycle of growth and life flows back into the vines. Through spring, summer and fall, there are noticeable changes from bud break to the development of tiny grapes. Summer brings full fruition when clusters of grapes hang heavy on the vines ready for eager hands to gather them. Fall passes and harvest is over. Leaves that provide glorious colors of yellow, orange and red in the autumn become dry and brittle, scattered on the ground by the wind. Vineyard workers look forward to a well-deserved rest from the months of intense work it requires to ensure grapes will produce a good harvest.

Work in a winery is a year-round occupation. Life goes on inside the winery during winter. Checking on fermentation, aging in oak barrels, and multiple tasks take place indoors. We tend to think that life stops in the vineyard when temperatures drop.  But during winter the vineyard is quietly taking care of tasks necessitated by colder weather. It is a time when vines hibernate, storing up energy for the coming season. Trained eyes understand the subtle changes winter imposes on the vineyard. Wood hardens on the vines protecting them from inclement weather. Vines gather and store carbohydrates for the future. Falling temperatures convert sugars to starch. The period of winter dormancy prepares them for the cycle of growth that begins once spring wakens the earth. Once again vintners and vineyard managers watch and wait for signs of burgeoning life when cover crops slowly emerge signaling hibernation is over and the cycle of regeneration is about to begin.


Know the characteristics in wine to make them more enjoyable

Several factors make drinking wine more enjoyable than popping the top of a can of soda. Wine’s infinite variety is part of the adventure of drinking, but it’s also daunting. Every brand of soda is always dependable – from color to fizz to taste. Conformity is the stock in trade of soda producers which is why a can of Coca-Cola aims to be the same around the world. It’s precisely the difference between soda and the many incarnations of wine. That’s why it’s helpful to recognize the different elements found in wine.

Many wines, particularly reds, contain tannins. They are compounds that come from grape skins, seeds, and stems that add to the complexity and texture of wine. Tannins, like those found in strong tea, are astringent and feel dry on the tongue and mouth, leaving a slightly bitter taste. Tannic wines are great match for red meat and heavy dishes like pastas.

Body in wine is defined by their different weights and richness that run the gamut from light to full-bodied. Some wines leave a distinct feeling of viscosity in the mouth. The more alcohol, oak,and sugar in  wine the heavier it tastes.. It’s comparable to the difference between creme fraiche and aged Gouda, or skimmed milk and heavy cream. Match a wine’s weight with an appropriate food. For example, whites or roses with lighter food.

Aromas and flavors are among of the great pleasures of wine. Aromas and flavors are a result of a variety of factors including grape varietal, the blend of grapes, aging in oak barrels, a vineyard’s terroir … i.e. the climate, amount of sun, and soils in the vineyard as well as the winemaker’s skill in in shaping the wine. These are the reasons why wine aficionados check a wine’s color and inhale its aroma before taking the first sip. Sensing flavors and aromas is very subjective because not everyone picks up the exact same aromas and flavors from a bottle of wine.

Experience helps to develop a finer appreciation of wine’s innumerable characteristics.


Terms to help you understand wine and taste better

Terms such as body, aromas and flavors, tannins, oak, acidity, and dry versus sweet clarify the characteristics in wine. Understanding the role each element plays in wine perks up our tastebuds when we drink a glass of wine. Amazingly, they vary from varietal to varietal and wine to wine. Some are constituents in the grape and others are determined by the choices a winemaker makes during a vintage. So let’s take one at a time.

Body refers to the weight, heaviness, viscosity or sense of richness in wine. More concentration flavors and body are a result of high alcohol. sugar, and/or oak. It’s a similar sensation to the way whole milk, cream, butter and a marbled slice of roast beef coats your tongue. White and rose wines are generally lighter in body than reds, but reds run the gamut from light to full-bodied.

Aromas and flavors are inherent in a grape’s varietal. The soil vines grow in and other elements of terroir dramatically affect the flavors and aromas in wine. It’s why a winemaker matches soil and terroir to particular varietals. Aromas play a vital role in determining what we taste since our noses  lead the way to taste. Because we all smell and taste differently, everyone sharing a bottle of wine detects different aromas and flavors. Several variations of wine aroma wheels offer a dazzling spectrum of aromas, including fruity, floral, and savory as well as a number of unpleasant aromas, like funky, earthy and wet cement.Certain compounds that contribute to  texture are found in grape skins, seeds, and stems that create tannins in wine. Tannins in wine or strong black tea leave a sensation of dryness the mouth and tongue. The scale of tennis varies strongly in red wine. Beaujolais and roses have few tannins.  Merlot is kinder on the tongue than some Cabernets, although winemakers are managing tannins better to make the wine more approachable earlier.

Oak barrels lend an amazing ability to develop flavors and aromas in wine. Vintners can choose wood from forests in a number of countries. French wood from certain carefully culled forests are the most desirable and expensive, but oak from many countries including the U.S., and Slovenia are popular. Vintners request a cooper to toast barrels from light to heavily charred. These variables, along with new versus old oak, impact on wine’s flavors, tannins, and structure.

In wine, the opposite of sweet is dry. The amount of residual sugar in wine after fermentation determines sweetness. Acidity can balance out some sweetness, just as lemonade can range from tart to super sweet.

Acidity in wine comes from natural acids in grapes. or acids that are added by the winemaker during the winemaking process. Acidity depends on the varietal and terroir. Grapes in cooler regions have higher acidity.