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Since I have discussed both wine and cheese in the past, it only makes sense to explore wine and cheese pairings. Everyone is familiar with the concept of pairing wine with food, but it can be hard to implement the practice. Pairing wine with cheese can be a slightly simpler endeavor than pairing wine with an entire meal. But which wines go well with which cheeses?
The first trick with wine pairing is understanding that not just any wine can go with any cheese. Some wine notes compliment certain cheeses while others don’t go together at all. Some pairings make sense and some don’t. For example, sauvignon blanc and goat cheese go together perfectly. Goat cheese has a tart, high, and mild flavor. Sauvignon blanc is also quite light and tart, but it adds some certain undertones such as citrus and even nuts. The primary magic of cheese and wine pairings is that the two compliment each other.
Many wines can be paired with goat cheese because it’s so mild, but what about a stronger type like bleu cheese? Bleu cheese is famous for its pungent taste and smell and unique blue mold growths. It might seem difficult to pair wine with such an intimidating character, but it is certainly not impossible. Interestingly, the sweet red Portuguese wine, port, makes a great pairing with bleu cheese. This unique pairing is characterized by its highly contrasting flavors. Port is very sweet and thick and is able to overcome the strength of many bleu cheeses, meanwhile the bleu cheese itself offers a memorable tang in the strong, sweet wine. This pairing is certainly not for the faint of heart (or palate).
Riesling and ricotta is another light and tangy pairing. Riesling often offers flavors of fresh, crispy pears, though the flavor can differ depending on whether it is dry or sweet. Ricotta is a sharp, textured cheese that is somehow simultaneously thick and light. The Riesling is able to cut through any of the ricotta’s thickness and bring out its subtle flavors.
Departing from the lighter flavors and delving into the bold, cabernet sauvignon and cheddar is certainly worth a try. It’s important to remember not to get any of the grocery store plastic-wrapped cheddar for this pairing. Instead, opt for an aged, rich, and crumbly golden block of cheddar instead. True aged cheddar is full-bodied, fatty, robust, and not easily forgettable. Because of its heavy flavor, it goes perfectly cabernet sauvignon as its dry taste counteracts the fattiness of the cheese, however, this red wine’s boldness is also able to add to the intense flavors of the cheddar rather than diminish them.
Havarti is one of my personal favorite cheeses. It is extremely smooth, creamy, mild, and perfect for pairing with bread, crackers, cured meats, and, of course, wines. The only problem with Havarti is that you must be careful not to overwhelm its delicate flavors when choosing a wine to pair it with. A light wine is the obvious choice, such as Riesling or Rosé. Any wine with any light flavors of fruit, herbs, or nuts will do well with Havarti.
Rioja and manchego: What can go better together than two Spanish staples? Manchego is a semi-soft cheese made from sheep milk in La Mancha region of Spain, and, legally, real manchego cannot be made outside of La Mancha, or at least it can’t be called manchego. When mature, this cheese is somewhat sweet with hints of caramel and nuts and it may have a slight grassiness to it. Rioja, on the other hand, is a dry red wine of medium body and has slightly deeper flavors of vanilla, black cherry, and ripe plums. This dry wine combines perfectly with the slight sweetness of the manchego.
The real secret to wine and cheese pairing is experimentation. Some pairings are not for everyone. It’s important for any wine and cheese enthusiast to go out on their own and try their own pairings to explore the limits of their palate.