February, 10 2019
Be honest, is there anything better than wine and cheese
? I mean, there’s our children, pets, possibly even our partners, but sometimes even they have to admit defeat, and rightly so – this is one of history’s great flavour combinations after all.
But how to pair the perfect wine with the perfect cheese?
There are actually several ways to create the ideal combination.
The first is to match the intensity
– for instance pairing a light bodied wine like a dry rosé with
Mozzarella, or a full-bodied powerhouse like Brunello with a mature sledgehammer like Pecorino. Part of why intensity pairings work so well is the strange effect salt and fat has on wine. When cheese is fresh out of the udder it has a high water content, which gradually dehydrates over time to be replaced by concentrated fats, making them ever more pungent. This fat coats our mouths when we eat cheese, albeit in the nicest possible way, whilst wine, naturally high in acidity, cuts through this coating – the more pungent the fats, the more potent the required acidity. The salt in cheese meanwhile, has an equally complimentary effect on wine, smoothing out the acidity and drawing forward the fruitiness. For instance, take a sip of a nice New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and you’ll detect that gorgeous, grassy acidity. Match it with a little goat’s cheese and the wine will taste smoother, with a greater hit of tropical fruit and herbal intensity.
An alternative to intensity pairing is to use a bridging or contrast match.
For a bridging match, you need to find a flavour present in the cheese or wine, and link it to a similar flavour in the other – for instance, a smoky red with a nice smoked cheese, or the truffle wonderland that is a Moliterno Tartufo, with the mushroomy heaven of an aged Barolo. Contrast matches, meanwhile, are harder to achieve, but there are still some tried and tested combinations that prove that opposites do attract. A perfect example is a salty and irresistibly umami blue such as Roquefort and a sweet wine like Sauternes – with the super-powered pungency of the cheese matching perfectly with the honeyed liquid sugar of the wine. The overall effect is to balance both; the wine prevented from becoming sickly and unctuous and the medicinal edge of the cheese tempered to unleash its most pleasant aromas. It would almost feel like magic if it wasn’t completely natural.
Finally, there are regional pairings
– not a hard and fast rule, but still worth considering and capable of creating some surprising matches. As the saying goes, if it grows together it goes together, like horseradish thriving in areas where great beef is traditionally found, creating what you could call a natural invitation – like Parmigiano, which comes from the same area as its soul wine Chianti, or Sauvignon Blanc which originally hailed from the Loire Valley, home to some of the best goat’s cheese in France.
The best advice, however, is to keep trying wine and cheese together until you find a perfect match. Hardly a trauma, I know. But for now, here are just a few of our favourite pairings from our recent wine and cheese events, all available in the UAE.
1) Gewürztraminer & Eppoises
Pungent Eppoises is easily capable of squashing most matches, however, it cuddles up beautifully alongside the bold aromatics of Gewürztraminer.
2) Pinot Noir & Comte
This salty, hard cheese is cave matured, developing along the way a gentle sweet nuttiness that bridges perfectly with food-friendly Pinot Noir.
3) Cabernet Sauvignon & Cheddar
The sharpness of a great Cheddar ably holds its ground against the intense red berry flavours and astringent tannins of a big, bold Cabernet.
4) Stilton & Ruby Port
The ultimate contrast match – creamy and salty Stilton draws out the fruitiness of the Ruby Port and vice versa, creating a heavenly, sweet and savoury pairing.
The Wines we tasted