2020 was a long and stressful year, to say the least. As we look forward to something that resembles normalcy, cheese lovers everywhere are excited to be able to enjoy in-person parties with friends and family once it’s safe again (or virtual parties while it’s not!). With that in mind, it’s fun to brainstorm what cheese pairs well with so you can start planning your next soiree now.
No party is complete without an amazing food and drink selection. The best part? You’ll finally have company to share those entire blocks and logs of cheese with that you were buying for yourself in quarantine. Though if you don’t have a problem tackling a whole wheel of cheese and a sleeve of crackers on your own, we aren’t here to judge!
Although creating your first guest list since the pandemic started might be complicated, the process of pairing cheese with various beverages doesn’t have to be. While there are a few go-to ground rules to keep in mind when answering the question, “what does cheese pair well with?” — it’s most important to remember that half the fun is in experimenting. Since taste is so subjective, certain pairings could taste like heaven to some, and not as delightful to others.
To get you started, here are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind as you navigate your way through a perfect pairing party with your friends.
Why are Wine and Cheese Paired Together So Often?
To fully understand great pairings, it’s important to know why wine and cheese go well together in the first place. Fun fact: cheese actually improves the perceptions of fruit aromas in wine. It also reduces the duration of astringency in red wine and heightens the taste of white wine — which means two entirely different experiences depending on which kind of wine drinker you are.
Cheese is high in fat, which coats your mouth and blocks taste receptors to beverages. When a creamy cheese texture is blended with a highly acidic wine, it cuts both taste sensations in half, creating a well-balanced pairing. So what does that mean for the combinations you should try? Read on, cheese padawan.
What Cheeses Go With Red Wine?
Since there are hundreds of different kinds of cheese and an equally overwhelming number of types of wine, pairing red wine and cheese can feel intimidating. First, take the pressure off by trying things out at home before you serve it. No one will care if you have an open bottle of Merlot instead of one that still has the cork.
There are tons of different combinations you can make with red wine and cheese (see 10 of our favorites here), but we’ll summarize how to pick and choose. As a general rule when pairing cheese with your red wine, match up wine and cheese that have equal intensity. For example, a nice smooth cheese like gruyere or fontal pairs excellently with a light red wine like Pinot Noir. Think light body, light cheese. Robust red wines also pair well with aged cheeses. Think bold wine, bold flavor. You can never go wrong with a Merlot and Parmesan combination.
What Cheeses Go With White Wine?
Pairing white wine with cheese is a little different than red wine. Instead of matching the intensity of the flavor, consider pairing opposite flavors to cut sweetness or dryness. Again, we have a round-up of our favorite pairings here, but let’s focus on the basics so you can create your own. Sweet wine like Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Moscato go great with funky cheeses like blue cheese and gorgonzola. The sweetness of the wine cuts the strong flavor of the cheese and vice versa. Additionally, sparkling wines, which are often white wines, pair excellently with creamier cheeses like brie and mascarpone, and semi-soft cheese like fontal.
If you want to follow the rule of pairing the same level of intensity, consider trying Sauvignon Blanc and goat cheese alongside one another. The high acid in both the wine and cheese balance each other out, leaving you with a mind-blowing pairing.
What Cheese Goes With Beer?
Now that you’ve got your wine and cheese pairing basics, let’s do a rundown for the beer drinkers. Again, there are tons of different kinds of beers, and the possibilities of pairings are endless. The secret to beer pairing is similar to wine, but it can be a bit more flexible. You’ll want to find cheeses that either complement or directly contrast the beer you are drinking. Additionally, it’s best to pair heavy beer with lighter cheeses, and light beer with strong flavored cheeses to enhance the flavor of one or the other. Consider starting your journey by pairing Parmesan with an IPA to cut the sharpness of cheese and let the hops shine. We created an infographic you can keep handy when you’re shopping. Download it here.
When it comes right down to it, there are certainly good guidelines to follow for what cheese pairs well with, but there’s also plenty of room to make your own. Find the combinations that work for you — and whoever makes the cut on that guest list. Above all, pairing your cheese and beverages should be fun. And who knows, maybe you can turn it into a bit of friendly competition over who can come up with the best pairing at your post-pandemic party.
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