Wine Pairing 101: Matching Wine And Cheese

Sunrise Senior Living  |  June 22, 2015

Peanut butter and jelly. Salt and pepper. Mac and cheese. There are too many classic food pairings to count. But there's one combination that's a step above the rest - wine and cheese. Nothing says luxury quite like a great bottle of vino and some perfectly aged cheese. Here's what you need to know about pairing these two ingredients at your next party. 

The science behind perfect pairings
There's actually a scientific reason why wine and cheese taste so good when eaten together. Researchers from Rutgers University found that astringent foods such as wine and fatty ingredients like cheese strike a balance on our palates because they're opposites on the sensory spectrum

"The mouth is a magnificently sensitive somatosensory organ, arguably the most sensitive in the body," said Paul Breslin of Rutgers University. "The way foods make our mouths feel has a great deal to do with what foods we choose to eat."

Wine feels rough and dry when consumed, and it matches delightfully with the fatty consistency of cheese. The scientists referred to this sensation as "mouthfeel." Go ahead and impress your friends with your knowledge as you serve up the following wine and cheese pairings. 

Soft cheeses
There are a variety of soft cheeses that are favorites for many people. Search your local grocery store for products like ricotta, mozzarella, goat cheese, feta or brie. 

The cheeses listed above are typically fresh, soft and creamy. These characteristics go well with light wines that have berry or fruit undertones. Some good pairings include:

  • Sweet riesling
  • Pinot grigio
  • Sauvignon blanc
  • Dry rose
  • Sparkling wine. 

Hard cheeses
On the opposite side of the spectrum are hard block cheeses. These dairy products are often aged to perfection and contain nutty undertones. Some popular hard cheeses include aged cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano, aged Monterey Jack, aged Gouda or Asiago.

There are two types of wines that pair well with these hard cheeses. You can choose to serve a tannic red or a sweet wine next to your platter of hard cheese. A few classic choices include:

  • Merlot 
  • Cabernet sauvignon 
  • Sweet riesling 
  • Vintage Champagne.

You can also give your guests a taste of each - one red and one sweet - and see which pairing they prefer. Make sure to take notes on the consensus so you know what to buy for your next wine-centric gathering!

Blue cheeses
Want to add a little bit of color into the mix? Pick up a package of one of gorgonzola, Stilton, Cambozola or Roquefort. 

These cheese varieties are usually bold, salty and savory, so they require a wine that balances out all those characteristics. Here are a few options that are sure to please your palate:

  • Red port
  • Sauternes
  • Riesling.