Pairing cheese and wine

Wine Basics / Serve, Store & Taste

Here's How to Pair Cheese and Wine Perfectly

Contents

Rosie Allen Rosie Allen

The basics

As a rule, the harder the cheese, the better it can cope with big, bold tannins in wine. The creamier the cheese, the more it needs acidity to cut through the richness.

In general, white wines match a wider variety of cheeses than red wines.

Tried-and-tested cheese and wine matches

Cheddar + Claret/ white Burgundy
Manchego + dry sherry
Gruyere + vin d’Alsace
Parmesan + powerful Italian red
Halloumi + Greek white or sparkling wine
Soft cheeses (goat’s, feta, Caerphilly) + sauvignon blanc
Blue cheese + Sauternes/tawny Port
Brie/ camembert + unoaked chardonnay
Orange-skinned cheeses (Epoisses, Reblochon, Munster) + Alsace gewurtztraminer


Cheese and White Wine

Why does wine go with cheese?

Cheese and wine. Wine and cheese. However you prioritise them in your life, cows’ gift to humankind can be life-affirmingly good when paired with a glass of something delicious.

But, before you unleash your finest Barolo on a tray of Dairylea triangles, it’s worth learning the basics of wine and cheese pairing. In truth a lot of cheeses ? especially very ripe and pungent ones ? aren’t a natural match for wine, and can kill off the delicate aromas and flavours of a good wine, and vice versa.


For that reason white wines often make a better match than the punch of a shouty red, as its bracing acidity can slice through the richness of dairy. Think of a dry or sweet white wine as the pickle to your cheese; a fresh, fruity accompaniment that stops all those rich fats and proteins from becoming too cloying.

Cheese and White Wine

Red wine and cheese can work of course, but you need to put a bit more thought into it (see below for red wine and cheese matching ideas).

Try: sticking to just one match.

That lovely chilled bottle of Bordeaux sauvignon blanc you’ve opened for a dinner will be delicious with a nutty, aged comte enjoyed in a generous slab afterwards; choosing one perfect cheesy specimen (or two in the same family, e.g soft cheese, blue cheese) and its soulmate wine rather than trying to match six different varieties is much more satisfying, and a lot easier on the pocket too.

Which wine goes with cheddar and other hard cheeses?

The cheese:

  • Cheddar
  • Gruyère
  • Parmesan
  • Manchego
  • Gouda
  • Comte

Hard cheeses are where red wines come into their own, with the power to stand up to big tannins and bold fruit without being so pungent they overpower the flavours. Sherry and rich whites can also handle the oomph of hard cheeses.

Try:

Cheddar and gouda are perfect with Claret (red Bordeaux) and fruity Rhône reds. Parmesan loves a rich Italian such as valpolicella ripasso, or a big, fruity new world number, such as an Argentine malbec. Manchego goes well with dry sherry such as fino or manzanilla or something a little richer like amontillado or oloroso. Sweet, nutty Gruyère cheese tastes great with white vin d’Alsace or pinot gris, which are gently aromatic and a couple of notches off bone-dry. Comté and white Bordeaux will make your life complete.

Which wines go with blue cheeses?

The cheese:

  • Stilton
  • Gorgonzola
  • Roquefort

If you haven’t tried sweet wine with blue cheese you are in for a treat ? the intensely salty, savoury heft of the cheese with a honeyed wine makes for a uniquely delicious match. Sherry or Port are also very good, but avoid most reds wines, whose fragrance and complexity is killed by the bolshiness of blue cheeses.

Try:

Sauternes with Roquefort, tawny port with stilton and medium-sweet sherry (such as oloroso) with either.

Blue Cheese
Blue Cheese

Which wine goes with halloumi?

Salty, rich and melty when fried, you’ll need something razor-sharp to slice through the unctuousness of this Greek cheese.

Try:

The crisp, clean flavours of a Greek white wine make a refreshing foil to the saltiness of fried halloumi. A sparkling wine would have the same effect; try a good cava, with lovely apple and almond aromas to offset the creaminess.

Grilled Halloumi
Grilled Halloumi

Which wine goes with goats’ cheese and other soft cheeses?

White wines work best here as they won’t overpower the delicate flavours of soft cheese and balance the richly creamy texture with its refreshing acidity.

The cheese:

  • Goat’s cheese
  • Feta
  • Lancashire
  • Caerphilly

Sauvignon blanc, whether a classic French bottle or lemon-and-lime packed new world style, is a classic match for soft cheeses. An English white, with its lovely gooseberry and hedgerow freshness are great too as is a lean, mineral Chablis as they make for a great palate cleanser for the mouth coating, creamy cheese.

Which wine goes with brie and camembert?

These cheeses are so characterful that it’s best to think of them in two ways when it comes to wine pairing; young and aged. Younger cheeses will appreciate something fruitier and more acidic, whereas a more mature cheese will need something a little richer and more substantial.

Try:

Both young brie and camembert will appreciate a steely chardonnay or fruity sauvignon. Pinot noir also loves young examples of these cheeses, so try a fruity New Zealand or Californian one. Mature brie and camembert need something weightier; both red and white Burgundy fit the bill.

Camembert
Camembert

What wine goes with ripe continental cheese?

Think:

Ripe, continental cheese such as Epoisses, Tomme de Savoie and Munster

A standard French cheeseboard is death to good red wine as the cheeses tend to be very creamy, rich and powerful. A young acidic red might just work (think an über-fresh Beaujolais or new world pinot noir) but rich whites are the safest bet. The spicy, floral notes of either an Alsace or new world gewurtztraminer would be perfect, as would white Rioja.