The idea that only red wine should be served with cheese is firmly in the past. Today, even the French are open to serving various wines with their farmhouse and artisan cheeses. But it is also true that not all cheeses work equally well with white wine and some should/must indeed be served with red.
So how can you possibly know which cheeses (out of thousands of cheeses that are out there) will have the most affinity to white wine? Let me give you some useful guidelines, based on the style of white wines.
Light crisp white wines
Wines in this category include Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Riesling Kabinett, Soave, Gavi, Verdejo, Albariño. They are light, easy-drinking with very lively acidity and have a natural affinity to most foods. Due to their nature, these wines work best with fresh or young, generally creamy in texture, cheeses.
- Fresh cheeses: Burrata, Mozzarella di bufala, fresh goats’ curd
- Soft, slightly aged cheeses: La Tur, White Nancy, French goat’s milk cheeses from the Loire (Selles-sur-Cher, Valencay, Ste-Maure-de-Touraine, Chabichou du Poitou)
- Semi-firm crumbly cheeses: Anster, Gorwydd Caerphilly, Appleby’s Cheshire, Wensleydale
Medium to Full-bodied white wines or aromatic white wines
For medium and full-bodied wines include Chardonnay, Viognier from warmer climates and white Bordeaux. These wines are smooth and rich, often due to oak ageing. Aromatic wines will include Gewürztraminer, Riesling Spätlese, Pinot Gris (from Alsace), Grüner Veltliner. There is a significant degree of flavour variation within this category but generally speaking they will work best with the following styles of cheese:
- Nutty mountain cheeses: Comte Reserve, Appenzeller, L’Etivaz, Gruyere, Abondance, Beaufort,
- Semi-firm nutty goats’ milk cheeses: Rachel, Payoyo, Garrotxa, goat’s milk gouda
- Washed rind cheeses: Munster, Epoisses de Bourgogne, Morbier, Gres d’Alsace, Gubbeen
- Hard aged cheeses: Vintage Gouda, Parmigiano Reggiano (24M+), Mimolette
Dessert white wines
These rich and luxurious wines include wines like Sauternes, late-harvest wines (Gerüztraminer, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling), Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, and Ice Wine.
Without a shadow of a doubt, these wines work best with blue cheeses. But to get even more accurate and successful with your pairings I recommend going for creamy open-texture blues with little or no earthiness. Depending on the exact sweetness of your wines, I recommend the following blues:
- Mild: Cashel Blue, Gorgonzola Dolce, Monte Enebro
- Medium: Bleu d’Auvergne, La Peral, Fourme d’Ambert
- Strong: Bleu des Causses, Roquefort Vieux Berger, Basajo
When it comes to cheese and wine pairing, it is nearly impossible to give out hard-and-fast rules. Both substances are constantly evolving and can vary a lot depending on the time of their production, age, and other aspects. And, of course, everyone’s palate is different. What works for me, may not work for you. So, the best approach at all times when using the guidelines above is to keep an open mind while experimenting a lot and noting what works best for you.
Savour the journey of discovery!
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