Wine and cheese are frequently paired together. Wine can go very well with cheese. It can also go very badly, if they are not paired correctly. If the wine and cheese get into a power struggle, the taste buds will lose. Here are a few guidelines for balance your cheese and wine adventures!
The easiest kind of cheese to pair is a mild, dry cheese. Jack cheese, cheddar, and Gouda are all examples of this type of cheese. You can drink just about any wine you want with these cheeses. They pair well with nearly anything. High tannin wines such as Cabernet and Côte-Rôtie are excellent companions to a mild cheese. Old delicate wines, like a well-aged red Bordeaux or Burgundy can safely be paired with a dry, mild cheese. It is often said that red wines go best with cheese, but even white wines work well with the mild, dry cheese. Pinot Grigio, Riesling, and Chardonnay all work equally well. Mild, firm cheeses really are a good match for anything.
If you are eating an acidic goat cheese, try a white wine. Especially tart wines like Sancerre and Chablis are good with chèvre or other goat cheeses. Fresh cheeses, such as fresh mozzarella (different from the drier form of mozzarella) also go well with white wines. Light red wines, like Dolcetto, Pinot Noir, or Beaujolais can also go well with fresh cheese. The tanginess of the wine matches well with the tanginess of the cheese.
Soft & gooey
For soft, runny cheeses, stick to white or sparkling wines. Brie and Camembert should not be eaten with the heavy red wines normally recommended. The gooeyness of the cheese and the moldy rind combine to make the red wine taste bitter. A sharp sip of Champagne or Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect balance to the tongue coating ooze of soft cheeses.
Strong & blue
Strong cheeses are where you really want to use the heavy red wines. Really strong smelling cheese like Limburger, Appenzeller, and some types of Camembert require the power of a heavy red wine to match it. The strong flavor of the cheese would drown out anything more delicate than a heavy red like Cabernet, Bordeaux, or Barolo.
This rule applies to blue cheeses as well. Not only is the power of a heavy red wine needed to counter the strength of the cheese, but the cheese can also mellow out the wine. The strong cheese tends to tone down the tannic flavor of these red wines. If you have a wine that is too bitter, you can actually improve the taste by eating some strong cheese with it, such as Roquefort or Stilton.
And for dessert…
Oddly enough, a dessert wine can also provide a good match for blue cheese. Some traditional combinations are Sauternes with Roquefort, and port with Stilton. Here, it is more of a case of opposites attract, than balancing the cheese and the wine. The sweetness of the wine and the saltiness of the cheese combine to create an interesting flavor combination, as long as the wine has enough power and acidity to cut through the flavor of the cheese. This is not a place for a mild wine.