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Wine and Cheese: the Perfect Pair

However, just like any other old married couple, wine and cheese have their differences too and these are predominantly due to their contrasting tastes and flavours. The creaminess and fattiness of the cheese offsets the acidity and sweetness of wine impeccably. A question of balance, their flavours and textures complement each other perfectly. With just a little knowledge and insight, a carefully chosen wine and cheese pairing, can be divine.

It is a common misconception that red wine is the ideal match for cheese. Whilst this is undeniably true for many varieties of cheese; it is certainly not always the case. A soft, creamy cheese such as Goats Cheese, Chaource, Brie or Camembert will taste much better when paired with a light-bodied, high acidity white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis or even a dry Riesling. The high acidity of the wine cuts through the creaminess of the cheese and their fresh, aromatic flavour complements the soft cheese perfectly. Sparkling wine is also a fantastic match for soft, creamy cheese. The wine’s high acidity is enhanced by the bubbles, and it provides a great palate-cleansing effect.

Hard cheeses such as Cheddar, Comté, Manchego and Parmigiano-Reggiano will usually go better with a red wine. The secret of success when pairing these cheeses with wine is to match your chosen cheese with a wine of similar intensity. For example, a young fresh Comté would be overwhelmed by a bold, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon, whereas a mature Cheddar would stand up to it well. The more delicate Comté would be much better paired with a lighter red such as Pinot Noir or a Beaujolais.

Pungent blue cheeses like Stilton, Roquefort and Gorgonzola have a very strong and often salty flavour, which will overpower most wines. Sweet wines such as Port, Sauternes or Vin Santo are the best options for these cheeses, as their strong flavour and sweetness will balance the saltiness of the blue cheese.

If all else fails, the safest option is to follow the old but reliable adage ‘what grows together, goes together.’ This is so true in many instances; for example, Goats Cheese from the Loire Valley in Northern France is the perfect partner for Sancerre wine – a light, aromatic Sauvignon Blanc also from the Loire Valley. Manchego is a Spanish sheep’s milk cheese and is a perfect match for Spanish Rioja and the Italian pairing of Parmigiano-Reggiano and Chianti is an excellent one.

The most important thing, however, is to remember that everyone has a different palate with their own unique preferences and trying different combinations to find the best ones for your taste is a very enjoyable pastime. Have fun experimenting!

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