It’s like Christmas in June, today is National Cheese Day! And, nothing goes better with cheese than wine. From creamy Brie to pungent blue, tangy goat to well-aged gouda, there is a perfect wine to pair with all.
A few tips, pair bold with bold and light with light, i.e. a nicely aged, highly crystalized parmesan with a robust Italian red, or a simple farmer’s cheese with a delicate, fruit-forward Pinot Grigio. And, pair regionally, i.e. French/Spanish/Italian wines with French/Spanish/Italian cheese, etc, like Roquefort with Sauternes, Manchego with nicely aged Rioja, Sancerre with Chevre.
For lovers of triple-cream and Brie, look no further than a pairing with Champagne or sparkling wine. The freshness of the sparkler cuts through the richness of the cheese, with nutty notes in a Brut style melding with the nutty notes of the buttery Brie. From Willamette Valley Vineyards, their Traditional Method Estate Brut Sparkling Wine blends estate-grown Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, creating a vibrant sparkler with marzipan and toasted hazelnut, leading to citrus layers of mandarin, Meyer lemon, and golden apple. Lengthy and lush, perfect for pairing with the richness of the cheese.
For Jarlsberg or swiss cheese, Chardonnay is always ideal, particularly one with smart use of oak aging, displaying lovely freshness melding with the natural generosity of the variety’s palate. Brand new from South Africa, Capensis Silene ($40) brings together fruit from two premium Stellenbosch vineyards ranging in elevation from 940-1730ft, the Capensis estate Fijnbosch vineyard and the neighboring Nooitgedacht vineyard with clay-filled soils. Layering mineral-intense, wet stone notes with aromatic orange blossom and lemon leaf, leading to a palate filled with juicy lemon-lime, melon, and orchard fruit.
Chevre or goat cheese is perfect with a Sancerre or Sauvignon Blanc. From sustainably farmed fruit on California’s North Coast, Benziger Sauvignon Blanc ($16) is zesty and fresh, with crisp citrus, lemongrass, soft herb, and golden grapefruit. Bright and clean, a perfect match with the tanginess of goat cheese.
The obvious choice for a high-quality Greek Feta would be an Assyrtiko from Santorini, but I prefer an Albarino from Rias Baixas, Spain. Traditionally Feta made from sheep’s milk or from a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk that has been brinded and cured. Inherently is high in acidity, producing either a light white wine or in a fuller style, with oak or lees aging adding to the texture and richness. As the fruit is highly influenced by the nearby Atlantic Ocean, and the granite-filled soils of Rias Baixas, the wine typically has a slight brininess and mineral note, perfect with the Feta. Gotas del Mar Albarino ($22), from the southern Condo de Te sub-zone of Rias Baixas near the Minho River and the Atlantic Ocean, melds this crushed stone minerality with aromatic floral notes of wildflowers leading to notes of lemon zest, apricot, and white peach.
Spain’s signature cheese and signature wine are meant to go hand in hand. From La Mancha, Manchego is ideal with a medium to full-bodied, herb and red fruit-filled Tempranillo, particularly those selections that have been aged for a year or two, adding complexity to the sheep’s milk cheese. From the eastern part of La Mancha, from the organically cultivated high altitude vineyard of Finca Los Juncares, Volver ($16) crafts a highly concentrated, earthy Single Vineyard Tempranillo with class and character. Aged 15 months in new French oak, the wine reveals brambly notes of ripe berry, with toasted spice, cedar, and tobacco.
For pairing with aged Parmesano Reggiano try an approachable Valpolicella, like Zenato Valpolicella Classico Superiore ($17). The nutty, salty, caramel flavors of the cheese meld beautifully with the blend of red varieties, including Corvina Veronese, Rondinella, and Corvinone. Lush and juicy, with a perfect balance of soft floral violets and toasted almond aromas, leading to black cherry, dried plum, and black licorice flavors.
Blue cheese and Port are an easy pairing, particularly Ruby Port, like Graham’s Six Grapes ($20), but I would encourage you to give a Pedro Ximinez Sherry a try, like Nectar Pedro Ximinez from Gonzalez Byass. Aged in a solera for an average of 8 years in a cask, the wine reveals notes of dried fig and prune, toffee, bitter chocolate, and dried cherry preserves. An easy pairing with dark chocolate or vanilla desserts, but if you are like me and prefer cheese at the end of the meal, this beauty is ideal, particularly with a nicely aged blue.