A cheese platter and a bottle of wine seem to go hand in hand, but trying to choose the right cheese for the right wine can give you a serious headache, even without a hangover. But don’t fret – I will shed some light on this not-so-cheesy business.
Basically this issue can be tackled in two ways: you can either get some expert advice from us or you can embark on a long and tricky journey of experimentation. We lean towards the former. Why? Simply because it might save you precious time and a few dollars – you can learn from our mistakes and our amazing discoveries as well.
Let’s get down to business. The first rule is the similarity of intensity and flavour. It means that if the cheese has a strong flavour it should be accompanied by a full bodied wine. The second rule contradicts the first one: in order to compliment each other, the two should form a contrasting combination of flavours and strength. Unless you are an expert connoisseur or enjoy flying blind, the rule of similarity is much easier and less risky.
If you are comfortable in identifying which wine is strong and which cheese has intense flavour, then this topic might seem straightforward and you should skip the rest of this discussion. However, if you feel like I could help please keep on reading to get a few of my suggestions for combinations of popular cheese types with respective wine selections.
Pecorino, Parmesan, Grana Padano. They are all very intense. Strong savoury flavour and sharpness depend greatly on a cheese’s maturity. Fully ripened Pecorino (6 months or more) will be firm, dry and salty. In order to match it, the best choice would be equally powerful wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon, which ideally is aged in an oak barrel. My pick would be a from Adelaide Hills. This single-vineyard red is oozing with character. Barossa Valley is famous for its bold and powerful red wines and this one is a great ambassador of the region. Very rich and tannic, complex blackcurrant aromas are mixed with herbs and olive. Very well balanced flavours are accompanied by the underpinned oak. If you decide to pair with a hard cheese, be ready for this ultimate synergy to blow your taste buds!
Cheddar, Mimolette, Gouda, Smoked cheese. These are of the semi hard variety. They have a less intense tang, offering slightly more subtle aromas. A well matched wine will be medium bodied in order not to overwhelm the cheese and a good choice would be Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Shiraz or even some whites which spent quality time maturing in an oak barrel. A 2018 T.S.S. Blend of – Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Shiraz fits the bill perfectly. Those three varieties are taking the Australian red wine scene by storm. Pindarie T.S.S. is a medium bodied, youthful wine. Juicy enough and oaky enough to bring a smile on your face, but not too complex to overpower the cheese. On the palate, you have a sensation of the gentle power of Shiraz mixed with a savoury tang of Sangiovese and light perfume of the Tempranillo.
Brie, Camembert, Creamy Brie. French cheese, soft and mild with fruity and nutty aromas. In order to balance its gentle nature, we are spoiled for choice here: Chardonnay, Champagne, Rose, Pinot Noir are just a few of the wines which will be a good match. Chardonnay is a forte of Adelaide Hills and for this reason I selected 2017 Anderson Hill O Serie Chardonnay. Very citrusy on the nose. The palate is dominated by green apple, jasmine, pineapple, vanilla and coconut. Overall this beautiful Chardonnay will give you a true French revolution for your taste buds when matched with those three musketeers of cheese.
Goat cheese. Although not very popular and sometimes it could be referred to as an acquired taste, this can be a real treat for the true cheese lover. The most common companion is Sauvignon Blanc. Its refreshing character beautifully compliments the gentle flavours of the goat cheese. 2018 Amadio Sauvignon Blanc, Adelaide Hills will not disappoint! On the nose: intense tropical notes, on the palate: lime, green capsicum and honeydew melon. Long, smooth and fresh finish.
Roquefort and Gorgonzola, another French and Italian special. These are some of the oldest known cheeses. Mould gives its distinctive character. Do not panic. It is a friendly mould, not the type you can find on your bathroom wall. The cheese is characterised by sharp, tangy flavour with a pungent odour. This is the only case here when I am using the rule of contrast when choosing wine. For example, a combination of Gorgonzola with 2018 Amadio Ruby’s Pink Moscato could deliver a truly remarkable if not highly addictive experience. It is bustling with floral notes on the nose. The palate is dominated by the aromatic tones of blossoming flowers with a gentle hint of sweets.
In order to make the most of this heavenly experience, keep in mind that the temperature is important for the cheese as well as the wine. Cheese should be kept at room temperature for at least 1 hour before degustation. It will allow the aromas to intensify and the texture gets softer (making it easier to serve).