There are plenty of variables to consider when thinking about wine. One can look, for example, at grape, region, age and technique. Oddly enough, cheese is just as dependent on these variables. Bridget Haugh, cheese expert at Lake Wine and Spirits, says cheese is the perfect complement to wine because they both “come from the land. The quality and taste of the milk produced is determined by the diet of the animals. This is why you can choose a cheese produced in the same area as the wine for a good pairing.”
Haugh generalizes that lighter wines go with lighter cheeses, and so on. She recommends pairing a lighter red with a Gouda, emmental or brie, a lighter white with a chèvre, fontina or feta. With bigger reds, Haugh recommends sheep milk cheeses, nutty cheeses and earthy cheeses like a taleggio. With full-bodied whites, “try a Camembert or Tomme de Savoie,” says Haugh.
“Remember this is always a matter of preference. If you like a certain wine and cheese together, go for it!”
Wine expert Michael Wirzylo at Lake Wine and Spirits had a few of his own ideas about perfect wine and cheese pairings. Read ahead for advice from a master!
Affordable Wine Pairings by Michael Wirzylo
$8.99 Cerejeiras Tinto Lisboa
Cheese pairing: Mahon
Rioja meets Rhone in this incredibly affordable Portuguese red, which displays tangy but luscious flavors of cherry, red plum and spice. The salty, buttery, paprika-rubbed qualities of Spanish Mahon fleshes out this bright wine beautifully, making you think you’re drinking a top-shelf cab.
$17.99 Udaca Adro
de Se Encruzado Dão
Cheese pairing: Yellow Door Creamery Altu
Dão has a unique climate where an alpine climate intersects with a Mediterranean one. Full, complex and almost oily-textured peach, pear, honey and sweet green herbal notes take center-stage when paired with this relatively obscure sweet cream alpine-styled cheese from New Jersey (of all places!) that closely resembles a cave-aged Gruyere.
$19.99 Gaudet Morgon Cotes-de-Py
Cheese pairing: Bent River Camembert
This magnificent French Beaujolais hails from what is perhaps the region’s greatest piece of real-estate outside of Burgundy’s Cote D’Or. A rocky minerality accents drop-dead gorgeous but well-structured wild raspberry and sweet cherry fruit to great effect. When paired with this equally complex Burgundian-styled, toothsome cow’s milk cheese from Mankato, Minn., magic happens!
$21.99 Teutonic Wine Company Red Blend
Cheese pairing: Carr Valley Mobay
Opposites attract with the headshaking complexity of this Oregon red-and-white blend alongside the beguiling sheep ’n’ goat layering of this semi-firm, pressed Midwest mainstay cheese. It’s Wisconsin’s world-champion take on France’s famous Morbier cheese, but it’s tangier and less pungent. The floral spice of the gewurtz and the serene red berry fruit of the pinot noir combine to great effect and soften the edge of this sharp cheese.
$19.99 Fitz-Ritter Riesling Brut Sekt
Cheese pairing: Alemar Good Thunder
Sparkling wine is a cheese-loving chameleon, as is the Riesling grape. Both styles are married here in this toasty, gingery, zesty German sparkler from the Phalz region. Good Thunder is one of Minnesota’s most distinguished cheeses—a multi-layered washed-rind beauty flavored with Surly Bender brown ale. This is a study in relational contrast that just tastes so compelling: beer meets wine, palate-cleansing meets dense and complex.