Bread, cheese and wine — these three ancient fermented foods are sometimes referred to as the 'holy trinity'!
Cheese and wine marry beautifully and, if you purchase good quality of both, it's hard to go too wrong. Much is also a matter of individual taste. However, following these general guidelines can help steer you right.
Match taste and textureTry to pair like tastes and strengths. For example, if you have a fresh, mild, slightly acidic cheese, it will match well with a crisp, light, acidic white wine. Conversely, a hard, aged cheese will marry best with a robust, aged red wine. Tangy goat's cheeses are well balanced by crisp sauvignon blanc or chenin blanc, whereas blue cheeses are frequently matched with fortified wines or 'stickies'. Port and stilton is a classic combination.
Match by regionThis is a fairly safe way to assure a favourable pairing. For example, if looking for something to accompany an Italian Chianti, choose an Italian cheese such as fontina, mozzarella or parmigiano reggiano. Better still, try and select cheeses from the same region.
Be careful with redsAlthough most people think of red wine when they think of matching wine and cheese, in fact, white wine is often a better and easier companion. This is because red wine can contain a lot of tannins, which can be damaging to the flavour of creamy, lactic cheeses, and produce metallic or even bitter tastes. Red wine and blue cheese, in particular, can be an unpleasant combination. To avoid this, try older red wines, which have mellowed so much of the tannins have disappeared, or younger, lighter red wines, such as pinot noir or merlot, which have lower levels of tannin than more full-bodied cabernet sauvignon or shiraz.
Quick rules of thumb
Pairing suggestionsChampagne or sparkling: brie, camembert, Swiss, gouda
Chardonnay: cheddar, gouda, gruyere or provolone
Riesling: blue-vein, colby, edam, Swiss
Sauvignon blanc or chenin blanc: goat's cheese, feta, asiago
Shiraz: cheddar, edam, gouda, gruyere
Cabernet sauvignon: camembert or blue-vein cheeses
Merlot: brie, camembert, Jarlsberg, gorgonzola
Port: stilton, roquefort or gorgonzola
Gewurztraminer: Boursin, chevre, Muenster, Swiss