The most popular cheese in the U.S. is mozzarella. The most popular wine is cabernet sauvignon — do not pair these two.
As a semi-soft cheese, mozzarella longs for the acidic taste of pinot grigio, pinot noir or riesling to balance its mild, sweet flavor.
Cabernet sauvignon demands a hardier, more complex cheese such as cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano, manchego, Gouda. (FYI, cheddar was the most popular cheese in the U.S. until mozzarella took over.)
For your book club, upscale poker game, pool party, before/after opera night or any other time when you want to treat friends to your pairing expertise, tuck away this information and guide.
When putting cheese and wine together it’s a matter of figuring out how the moisture and fat content, texture and flavor of any given cheese will work with the acidity, sweetness, body and structure of any given wine.
Young cheeses go best with juicy, fruity and fresh wines such as crisp whites, dry rosés and reds with good acidity and sprightly fruit. Older cheeses need bold, complex wines such as tannic red wines.
In other words, wines less than 12% ABV (alcohol by volume) are less intense and click with delicately flavored cheeses. Wines over 14.5% ABV are intense and pair better with more strongly flavored cheeses.
If serving a variety of cheeses with one wine, think light and citrusy such as a riesling or sparkling wine — when in doubt with whatever you are pairing, you can’t really go wrong with Champagne.
Remember to bring your cheeses to full flavor by removing any you’ve refrigerated 30 minutes before serving, and offer crackers and bread to cleanse the palate.
- Ricotta, feta, brie, Camembert with Chablis, chenin blanc, sauvignon blanc, Beaujolais
- Havarti, Edam, Gruyère, Monterey Jack with chardonnay, zinfandel, merlot, red Burgundy
- Époisses, taleggio, Morbier (stinky cheeses) with gewürztraminer, riesling, Sauternes
- Stitlton, Roquefort, cambozola with red port, tawny port, Tokaji
- Pecorino, Asiago, Cheshire with Madeira, Bordeaux, California red blends