It’s been said that good things come in pairs. Well, this might just be the best example, two of life’s greatest culinary treasures: wine and cheese. Although the final result may take you to another dimension, the art of pairing wine and cheese it’s not as easy as we’d like it to be. The endless varieties of cheese and wines make this delicious endeavor a journey of its own. When facing a pairing decision, we must take into consideration many elements such as acidity, tannin, texture, and flavor. A creamy white chèvre and a tangy Vermont cheddar, although equally exquisite, will require a specific partner. Therefore, the first step before throwing your wine and cheese party is to actually decide which wines and cheeses you will offer.
Know your pairings
Age is an important element to consider when choosing the right companion for your cheese. As the cheese ages, the flavors of the fat and proteins begin to take a leading role. Consequently, older cheese, like Gruyère, tend to be more savory and strong. In the same sense, as wines age their flavors and complexity also changes. Therefore, we should take into consideration the flavor intensity acquired by the aging process of both the wine and the cheese.
Cheeses with a fresh, creamy flavor are usually tangy or mild, and pair exceptionally well with light-bodied reds and dry rosés. Soft cheeses such as Ricotta, Mozzarella, Brie, or Chèvre can be enjoyed with a nice glass of Pinot Grigio, Lambrusco, Sauvignon Blanc, or Moscato. It’s important to remember that balance is key; therefore, the younger the cheese, the lighter the wine should be.
Semi-hard cheeses, such as Gruyère, Manchego, and Havarti, which tend to have a stronger flavor due to its firmer texture are better experienced when accompanied by wines with a nice balance between acidity and tannin. These cheeses usually have an acidity and salty touch, which are highlighted by the flavors of medium-bodied whites and fruity reds. You can’t go wrong with a bottle of Chardonnay, Merlot, or Tempranillo when pairing these.
At the other side of the spectrum, we have hard, aged cheeses with a strong flavor and creamy profile. The nuttiness of cheeses such as Comté, Pecorino, or Cheshire, works extremely well with dry, full-bodied whites and fruity, tannic red wines. Petite Sirah, white Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Nebbiolo are a sure bet when you’re enjoying an aged cheese.
Get the party started
Once you have decided which wines and cheeses you will offer, it’s time to set everything up. First, take the cheeses out of the fridge around 2 hours before the party starts; most cheeses taste better when enjoyed at room temperature. When thinking about organizing a wine and cheese party, we recommend to keep the number of guests under 12 so you can have enough time to properly take care of them.
To avoid overwhelming your guests, try offering no more than five different cheeses. It’s usually recommended to offer 2-4 ounces portions so guest can sample all the different varieties. Rather than placing a central platter. It’s also a good idea to place a couple scattered around the room so people can access the offerings easier. Each station should have samples of the different cheeses, maybe divided by type of milk, region, or style, and their recommended wine pairing.
Now you’re ready to go to a specialty store to get your cheeses and wines, call you closest friends and have an unforgettable Saturday night. Cheers!