A Beginner’s Guide to Wine and Cheese Pairings

Wine and cheese pairings

Wine and cheese go together like bacon and eggs or coffee and cream, but that doesn’t mean everyone knows the best wine and cheese pairings. Picking the right wine to go with your cheese, or vice versa, can be daunting for beginners. At Columbia Distributing, your Northwest beverage distributor, we believe everyone should have access to this knowledge so that no matter who you are, you can experience the joy that comes from the perfect pairing of wine and cheese. Here is what you need to know to get started with this age-old tradition.

Start with Your Cheese

To make a great wine and cheese pairing, you have to start somewhere. The easiest place to start, as a beginner, is by considering the different features of your cheese. It’s likely that you’ve already picked out the cheeses you want to put on your cheeseboard, as cheeses tend to be more familiar territory, so it’s the logical place to start for most novices. Cheeses can be broadly categorized as hard or soft, based on their moisture content, with various cheeses in the categories sharing certain characteristics. However, cheeses of all sorts can be described by their flavors, including sweet, buttery, delicate, sharp, salty, smoky, nutty, and more. When choosing a wine to go with a cheese, it helps to start with whether the cheese is hard or soft and with, perhaps, a distinguishing flavor.

Wines That Pair Well with Hard Cheeses

Harder cheeses, such as cheddar and Parmigiano-Reggiano, often hold up to the flavor of stronger red wines, which have more tannins and lower acidity. Tannins also act as a palate cleanser, so a cheddar and cabernet sauvignon or a rioja pairing would be just right for anyone who enjoys bold flavor, as would a Gouda and merlot pairing. Other red wines to try with hard cheeses include Chianti and Bordeaux blends.

Do only red wines pair with hard cheeses? Not at all. Champagne and other sparkling wines go very well with cheddar, as does Chardonnay.

Wines That Pair Well with Soft Cheeses

White wines make great partners for many soft cheeses. For example, pinot grigio, Chardonnay, and Champagne are excellent choices to go along with brie, goat cheese, provolone, mozzarella, and more. In general, white wines tend to complement delicately flavored cheeses.

If you prefer red wine, soft cheeses, including brie and camembert, tend to pair well with fruitier red wines, such as a pinot noir or Beaujolais. Feta, Gruyere, Monterey Jack, Muenster, Port Salut, and Swiss are all complemented by a pinot noir.

Flavor Considerations for Wine and Cheese Pairings

While choosing your wine based on whether your cheese is soft or hard can be a good place to start for beginners, it’s important to consider the flavors of your wine and cheese to make the best pairings. Strongly flavored and salty cheeses, such as blue cheese, often go well with sweet wines or dessert wines, like port. Buttery and creamy flavors tend to be complemented by wines stored in oak. Another tip for great wine and cheese pairings is to choose cheeses and wines from the same region – French wines with French cheeses, etc. The method isn’t foolproof, but it can help to get you started on the journey of discovering your favorite wine and cheese combinations.

Find Your Wines All Over the Northwest with Columbia Distributing

Whichever wine and cheese pairings you choose, you’ll find all of the wines you’ll need from Columbia Distributing at your local retailers. We keep stores in Oregon, Washington, and California stocked with the best wines produced in the Northwest and from all around the world. To learn more, contact us today.