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Pairing Wine and Cheese: A Few Guidelines

By Sarah Bartlett from Heritage Cellars

It may sound overly simplistic, but keep one thing in mind as you start pairing wine and cheese: you are the best judge as to what appeals to you. Don’t let someone else’s opinion overrule your tastes.

To discover exciting wine and cheese pairings you love, I recommend a simple approach: keep an open mind, follow a few simple guidelines, and be willing to have fun and experiment. Here are a few concepts that may help:

Keep It Simple
Creamy cheeses require a wine with higher acidity and hard cheeses pair with wines with higher tannin content (tannins = more bitterness and astringency). Speaking very generally, white wines are more harmonious with milder, soft cheeses and red wines with hard cheeses.

Balance Is Key
Don’t put a mouse together with an elephant. For example, don’t overwhelm light, delicate wines with creamy, rich salty cheese. Instead, look to a wine with an underlying sweetness which can create a delightful pairing with salty flavours. Full-bodied wines brimming with ripe fruit flavours can balance the saltiness of blue-veined cheeses or aged Parmigiana.

Rather than a traditional pairing of Port or other sweet dessert wine with Stilton, why not try a bold Californian Zinfandel? The Stilton’s saltiness does a wonderful job of bringing out the fruit in the Zin.

Regional Pairings
Each regional cuisine evolves in its own unique ecosystem. As a result, there is often a harmony between different foods and wines that come from the same locale. Use this as a clue. If a cheese and a wine come from the same region, there may be some magic there.

The lighter-styled white and red wines containing acidity, minerality, and freshness from France’s Loire Valley are a good example. These wines pair inherently well with local cuisine such as fresh goat’s milk cheese and fish.

Don’t Be Afraid
Ultimately, trust those tastebuds of yours. Be inspired to pursue interesting combinations and discover new favourites!

A Few Pairings to Try
Aged Etorki paired with Principe di Granatey Lucido

Farmhouse Manchego paired with Marianot Langhe Nebbiolo

Sarah has certifications from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and International Sommelier Guild with a background in restaurant management. At Heritage Cellars, she selects wines that are accessible for Ontario wine drinkers. Sarah can be reached at origin@heritagecellars.com.

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