There’s no denying that wine and cheese simply go well together. This combination has a very long history, to the extent that people have probably been pairing wine and cheese for as long as both have been available. There’s something amazing about the way that cheese and wine complement one another, as the lactic acid in cheese often gives wine a softer taste that makes it easier to enjoy. And, not surprisingly, there are many different cheese wine pairing combinations that you can try.
It’s not a stretch to say that for every type of cheese, there is at least one wine that’s an absolutely perfect fit. And, much of the time, there are multiple good choices of wine for a single type of cheese.
The biggest challenge is that there are so many varieties of wine to choose from and just as many types of cheese. Wine and cheese have their nuances too, so two bottles of chardonnay can sometimes be quite different from each other. The same is true for two pieces of brie produced by different companies.
So, in this list, we’re taking a close look at some classic cheese and wine pairings. We’ll also talk a little about what to look for when you’re matching cheese and wine.
Cheese Wine Pairing Combinations
Young and Soft Cheeses
Fresh cheeses tend to be milky and vibrant. Their flavors are often subtle, so the wine that you choose can’t be too intense. Instead, these cheeses are generally paired with bright wines, including rosés, sparkling wines, white wines, and some light reds.
Look for crisp wines that have citrus, stone fruit, or melon notes in their flavor profile. These will often stand up well, giving you just the contrast that you need.
Chardonnay and Double Cream Cheeses
Some types of cheese are creamier than normal and are known as either a double cream cheese or a triple cream cheese. Brie is one of the most famous types of double cream cheese, which isn’t surprising as it is delicious and very smooth.
Triple cream cheeses sometimes contain the phrase Délice as part of their name. The use of the phrase isn’t a guarantee and some triple cream cheeses don’t use it at all, but at least the phrase is a good indication.
Regardless of the type of double or triple cream cheese that you choose, chardonnay is a good match for the cheese. It has a fruity and somewhat buttery flavor that naturally complements the cheeses.
You can even pair chardonnay with some pungent washed rind cheeses. These are often soft like double and triple cream cheese, except that the rind is notably stinky. Interestingly, chardonnay knocks the edge of this stinkiness, making the cheese easier to enjoy.
Pinot noir is light or medium bodied red wine. It’s incredibly popular and is well-known for having a smooth finish, while offering aromas of fruit, flowers, and spice.
The light body of the wine makes it an ideal choice for foods that are too flavorful to suit a white wine, but would not stand up to the intensity of more full bodied reds. The low tannin content and high acidity of the wine add to its versatility for food pairing.
As for serving wine with cheese, pinot noir is a flexible choice. Most types of sheep’s milk cheeses will pair well with the wine, although you’re not just limited to these cheeses. Some good types of cheese to consider include gruyere, gouda, and taleggio.
Pinot noir can be an especially good choice if you’re making a cheese board, as the wine should complement almost any cheese that you choose. The main exceptions are strong goat’s cheeses and blue cheeses. The flavors of these can be intense and may overpower the wine.
However, there are disagreements about whether or not you can pair pinot noir with blue cheese. Some people say that you can and that the right pinot noir with the right blue cheese tastes amazing. If you find a good combination here, then you really do end up with a versatile bottle of wine.
Pinot Grigio and Mozzarella
The lightness and acidity of pinot grigio is a natural choice for the soft mozzarella, especially as the cheese has a slight sweetness of its own. You could also turn to a pinot gris, which has many similarities in its flavor profile. Pinot gris and pinot gricio are made from the same grapes, after all. A key difference is that pinot gricio tends to be the lighter option of the two.
Of course, we’re just talking about mozzarella cheese on its own. If you’re using mozzarella cheese as part of a larger meal, then a pinot grigio may be the wrong choice, as the flavors of the mozzarella will often be drowned out by other ingredients.
Sauvignon Blanc and Goat Cheese
White wines tend to be even more versatile than light bodied reds when it comes to pairing with cheese. This is because white wines don’t contain any tannins, so there’s little to make the flavors clash.
Serving sauvignon blanc with goat’s milk cheese is a classic choice. This isn’t too surprising, as goats are common in the area where sauvignon blanc originally comes from.
This combination is best if you’re focusing on goat’s milk cheese from France, rather than from the United States. French goat’s milk cheese often contains more calcium than goat’s milk cheese from the United States, which changes the texture and flavor somewhat.
You’ll also find many such cheeses become a little spicy as they age. This spiciness is perfectly complemented by a sauvignon blanc.
Ricotta and Riesling
If you’re going to pair wine with ricotta cheese, then it’s hard to go wrong with a Riesling. This German classic tends to have a tangy flavor profile, which contrasts delightfully with the creaminess of ricotta cheese.
You can find sweet and dry versions of Riesling. Either type goes well with ricotta, so you can focus on your favorite.
Viognier and Jarlsberg
Jarlsberg is a semi-soft cow’s cheese. It is related to Swiss cheese, has a mild flavor, and is most well-known for its ability to melt exceptionally well.
The flavor profile means that you don’t want your wine to be too overwhelming. A viognier is perfect here, as it has stone fruit flavors that are a natural contrast to the savory Jarlsberg.
Brie and Chardonnay
Brie classically pairs with white wines, especially those that are relatively high in acidity. The acidity acts as a stark contrast to the creaminess of these cheese and helps to clear the palate. Those outcomes are exactly what you want when you’re eating a rich cheese like brie. Otherwise, the richness of the cheese could easily become overwhelming.
Of all the white wines that you could choose, chardonnay is one of the best. The wine works well because it has enough body to stand on its own. As such, chardonnay complements the flavors of brie without being overwhelmed with those flavors.
Fresh Cheeses and White Wines
Fresh cheeses tend to be softer and milder than other types of cheese, partly because they don’t go through much maturation at all. This category includes examples like mozzarella, feta, ricotta, and creamy goat’s cheese.
The mild flavors of these cheeses mean that you need to focus on fresh and vibrant wines. Most types of white wine will work here, including sauvignon blanc, riesling, and chardonnay.
A few types of red wine will work too. You’re looking for wines that are similar to pinot gris, which means that their tannin content is low and their flavor profile isn’t too intense.
Semi-Aged and Medium Hard Cheeses
Cheeses in this category tends to have developed some complexity over time, but their flavors aren’t strong. You need to choose your wine carefully to make sure that you’re complementing the flavors of the cheese without overwhelming them.
This often means that you need wines that have some complexity of their own, along with a degree of acidity. Some of the pairing examples below fit into that general theme, although there are some exceptions too.
Raclette and Riesling
Raclette is a smooth semi-hard cheese that has a somewhat buttery flavor profile. It’s often used melted, but the cheese can be sliced and eaten that way as well.
A riesling works well with a raclette due to the aromatic scents in the while, along with its high acidity. However, you’ll need to choose your riesling carefully, as they won’t all complement raclette in the same way. Look for an off-dry riesling, so there isn’t too much sweetness present.
Rosé and Havarti
Havarti is a relatively mild cheese, so you need an appropriate wine that complements the cheese without overpowering it. A rosé is an easy choice, as you get subtle flavors from the wine and a brightness that nicely complements the smoothness of the Havarti.
Vermentino and Fiore Sardo
If you’re wanting to branch out a little, consider this combination. Fiore Sardo is an artisan sheep’s cheese that tends to be firm and has a distinct nuttiness. While the cheese may be difficult to find in local stores, it is one that you can certainly order online.
Vermentino has somewhat oily qualities that nicely contrast the Fiore Sardo. The cheese also tends to be fatty, while there is an acidic quality to the wine. These characteristics always contrast one another well, creating a wine pairing that can’t be missed.
Cheddar with Malbec
Cheddar cheese has a notable flavor profile, which gives you the chance to pair it with stronger reds. Malbec is one example. The body of this wine tends to be a little lighter than cabernet sauvignon, but not dramatically so. Indeed, malbec often ends up being a less expensive alternative to cabernet sauvignon.
Still, despite the similarities between the two types of wine, malbec has its own notable characteristics too. It tends to be rich in fruit flavors, including blackberries and plums. The wine is a delicious choice if you want something that is going to make your cheddar taste amazing.
Not surprisingly, cabernet sauvignon is another good option here. You could also turn to zinfandel, which tends to offer somewhat heady jammy flavors.
Young gouda is an exceptional cheese for wine pairing because it combines with so many different types of wine. Champagne, malbec, pinot gris, pinot noir, and chianti are just some of the wines that you can choose from. This versatility is ideal for cases when you already have the wine on hand.
It’s also easy to find foods that combine well with gouda. For example, on a cheese board, you might serve grapes and some dried fruits. You end up with an inexpensive spread that still tastes amazing.
Blue Cheeses and Aged Cheeses
Aging often intensifies and changes cheese, giving it a richer and more complex flavor profile. This means that you need to focus on wines with a rich flavor of their own. The nuances of gentler wines can get almost entirely lost when paired with an aged cheese.
For anyone wanting a wider variety of pairing options – check out our posts on wine pairing with blue cheese and with aged gouda. Both types of cheese can be paired with a variety of wines, including some unexpected ones.
Port and Blue Cheese
Port is a type of fortified wine, one that tends to be thicker than other types of wine, with an appealing sweetness. This combination of features contrasts well against the pungent nature of blue cheese.
While port is often paired with cheese, the combination often doesn’t work as well as you might expect. The problem is that port has an intense flavor. Blue cheese is strong enough to stand its own with port, but many other types of cheese fail.
If you’re making a cheese board, red grapes, walnuts, and dark fruit are all fantastic additions. These provide a similar richness of flavor and create a cheese board that’s full of complimentary flavors.
Port and Aged Cheddar
A well-aged cheddar is one of the few other types of cheese that can stand up to port. For this to work, you need a cheddar that is powerful and has been through a decent amount of aging. Cheese with subtle flavor just isn’t going to work.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Aged Cheddar
If port doesn’t appeal to you, try pairing aged cheddar with cabernet sauvignon instead. Cabernet sauvignon is a full bodied intense wine, so it does best when paired with strong flavors.
Aged cheddar is perfect in this respect, as the aging process adds complexity and depth of flavor to the cheese. The fattiness in aged cheddar is important too, as this helps to offset the strong tannins in the wine.
Malbec and Blue Cheese
Malbec is an interesting type of wine. It is medium to full bodied, which means that it can pair well with foods that are rich in flavor. This suggests that you would use malbec in much the same way as a cabernet sauvignon. However, there are distinct differences too.
In particular, the tannins in a malbec tend to be less notable and the finish of the wine isn’t as long either. This combination means that a malbec doesn’t need to be paired with fatty foods. The wine also works well with earthy flavors, including mushrooms and blue cheese.
Malbec ends up being one of the few wines that consistently complements blue cheese. The wine is good with melted cheese too, which could be useful if you plan on making fondue.
Tawny Port and Hard Cheeses
Tawny port has been through considerable oak barrel aging, sometimes spending as long as 20 years in an oak barrel. The process creates the tawny color of the wine and mellows the flavor profile as well. You end up with nutty tones, rather than the strong sweetness that is common in vintage port.
The mellowness of the port makes it an excellent accompaniment to salty hard cheeses, like parmesan.
Parmesan and Prosecco
Rich wines aren’t always the best choice with hard cheeses. The combination of parmesan and prosecco shows that you can take other approaches too. The bubbles in the wine make a fantastic contrast for the saltiness of parmesan cheese, while the flavors of the cheese are still able to shine through.
This pairing is an example of a common adage, which is that wine and cheese that is made together pairs well. In this case, parmesan and prosecco are both Italian, so it’s not surprising that they work well together.
Malbec and Aged Cheddar
Malbec is commonly paired with blue cheese, so it’s no surprise that the wine works well with aged cheddar too. In fact, malbec is versatile enough that you can combine it with many other types of aged cheeses.
The intensity of malbec helps to balance out some of the sharpness of aged cheddar, creating a combination that is easy to enjoy. The chocolate tones in the malbec make the pairing even more perfect.
Pairing with Fondue
You can pair wine with fondue too, but the wine you choose will often be different than if you were eating the cheese on its own. This is hardly surprising, as the fondue experience is quite different from enjoying a cheese board.
Sauternes is a rich dessert wine. The sweetness of the wine helps to make the fondue seem even more decadent and there are no clashing flavors to worry about.
While sauternes can be a delicious pairing, you may find that the finished combination is too decadent. An off-dry riesling may be more appropriate. The off-dry nature means that the wine has a slight sweetness to it that complements your fondue nicely.
Despite this sweetness, the wine is still crisp, which helps it to cut through the richness of the cheese. By doing so, the riesling partially acts as a palate cleanser, helping to stop you being overwhelmed by the richness of the cheese.
Most White Wines
For that matter, most unoaked white wines have the vibrancy needed to pair well with cheese fondue. This means that you don’t need to stress too much about the wine that you choose, just focus on whatever you have available.
You can even pair champagne or another type of sparkling white wine with the fondue. If you do so, try focusing on dry varieties, rather than a sweet sparkling wine. This will give the best outcomes when paired with your fondue.
Finally, some red wines can pair with fondue too, although you need to choose carefully. Look for a red wine that has a light body, hasn’t spent much time in oak, and is low in tannins. A pinot noir is the obvious choice here, as pinot noir pairs with many of the same foods as white wines.
Wine and Cheese in Meals
The pairing of wine and cheese also changes when you’re using the cheeses in a meal, rather than on its own. Doing so means that you now have more flavors and textures to think about, rather than just the cheese.
The dominant flavors of the meal is a key thing to think about here, along with the fattiness and texture of the dish. For example, if you’re serving blue cheese with steak or as part of a burger, then a rich red wine would be essential. Something like malbec or even a cabernet sauvignon. You could also pair malbec with a bowl of macaroni cheese that heavily relies on aged cheddar.
On the other hand, if your meal was much lighter, then you may need to stick to a white wine or a red like pinot noir. Focusing on a too intense wine wouldn’t help, as you would end up drowning out the flavors of your food.
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