Guide to the perfect wine and cheese pairing

Matching these two culinary pleasures correctly makes them even more enjoyable.

The options for wine and cheese pairings are endless. Cheeses can be divided into six categories for matching with wine. Here is a simple guide to help you pair your vino and fromage the next time you entertain.

Fresh cheese

Soft and rindless, these can be made with cow, goat or sheep milk. They’re not aged and have a mild, slightly tangy flavour. The category also includes farmer’s cheese, ricotta and others that come in tubs.

White wine pairings

  • Crisp, dry and young bottlings (Albariño, Soave, Pinot Blanc, Muscadet, Vermentino, Verdejo, Arneis, Sauvignon Blanc, young Chardonnay).
  • Off-dry wines (Gewürztraminer or Riesling) for salty cheeses like fetta.

Red wine pairings

  • Very young, fruity, unoaked red wines (Loire Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Gamay, Valpolicella, Zweigelt).
  • Crisp, dry rosé.

Bloomy cheese

These are named for the bloom of white mould on the outside. They tend to be the richest and creamiest type of cheese, with a soft, spreadable texture. The rind is edible and it has a stronger flavour than the interior.

White Wine Pairings

  • Dry, traditional-method sparkling wines (brut Champagne, NV for young cheese, vintage for riper, more pungent cheeses).
  • Light-bodied, dry, unoaked Chardonnay (Chablis).
  • Restrained, dry, light-bodied Sauvignon Blanc (Sancerre).
  • Dry, young Riesling, dry Chenin Blanc (Vouvray), Grüner Veltliner.
  • Aged Hunter Valley Semillon or textured white Rhône varieties (Marsanne and Roussanne, specifically Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc) for ripe, pungent cheese.

Red wine pairings

  • Dry and light-bodied wines that are young, fruity and unoaked (Pinot Noir, Dolcetto, Barbera, Gamay, Cabernet Franc from the Loire, Bonarda, Mencía, Zweigelt).

Washed rind cheese

A bath in brine, beer or wine produces a distinct orange rind. They’re rich and creamy, and can be soft or semi-soft in texture. They’re stronger than bloomy cheeses, with gamy, often pleasantly pungent notes.

White wine pairings

  • Dry, traditional-method sparkling wines (brut Franciacorta, brut California bottlings).
  • Dry and off-dry, unoaked white wines (Gewurztaminer and Pinot Gris from Alsace, Chenin Blanc from the Loire).
  • Dry, structured whites (Marsanne and Roussanne, mature Hunter Valley Semillon, Riesling from Clare or Eden Valley, Australia) for ripe, pungent cheese.

Red wine pairings

  • Beaujolais Villages.
  • Pinot Noir.
  • Poulsard or Trousseau from Jura.

Semi-soft cheese

They’re not spreadable, nor do they break up like a hard cheese. They tend to be creamy and fairly mild in flavour and are excellent to melt and perfect to slice.

White wine pairings

  • Dry, white wines with a touch of oak (Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Rioja).
  • Condrieu.

Red Wine Pairings:

  • Gutsy, rustic, crunchy wines without much oak (Côtes de Rhône, Corbières, St-Chinian, Chianti, Mencía, young Bordeaux blends).

Hard cheese

The product of aging, these are quite firm and break into crumbles or shards. They tend to have nutty and complex savoury notes. Some are fairly pungent and salty.

White Wine Pairings:

  • Vintage traditional-method sparkling wines (Champagne, Franciacorta) for younger cheese.
  • Sherry (Amontillado, Palo Cortado).

Red Wine Pairings:

  • Bold wines with some age (Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Aglianico, Rioja or Bordeaux blends from cooler climates like Bordeaux or Margaret River).

Blue cheese

Veins of blue mould run through these. They can be soft and creamy, or semi-soft and crumbly. Some are sweeter and milder, but all pack a good deal of sharpness and tang.

White Wine Pairings:

  • Milder blue cheeses like Cambozola share the same potential matches as bloomy cheeses.
  • Noble Rot sweet wines (Sauternes, Barsac, Monbazillac, Riesling Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese, Quarts de Chaume) for sharp, salty cheese.
  • Dessert wines from dried grapes (Vin Santo, Jurançon, Recioto de Soave).
  • Late-harvest wines (Riesling Spätlese or Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives) for cheeses not overtly pungent.

Red Wine Pairings:

  • Sweet, fortified reds (Vintage Port, LBV Port, Maury, Banyuls).