Holiday Wine & Cheese Pairings
By Rachel Thralls, CS
To me, wine and cheese are like peanut butter and jelly. I really don’t like to have one without the other. Although there are no rules set in stone about pairing wine and cheese, there are some guidelines to follow as well as classic pairings. Think crisp Sauvignon Blanc paired with fresh goat cheese, Sauternes paired with Roquefort or a Port paired with Stilton.
Bubbles paired with cheese
If you are anything like me, I love starting off any festive occasion, or any occasion for that matter, with bubbles. I especially love Champagne or California Sparkling Wine with creamy double and triple-crèmes, such as Brie, Fromager d'Affinois or Brillat-Savarin. The bubbles do a wonderful job cleansing your palate and help break down the acids and fats of the cheese. Sparkling wines also have a degree of acidity and sweetness that gives them a special affinity for certain cheeses, especially these rich, buttery types.
The Sofia Méthode Champenoise sparkling wine from California pairs beautifully with a variety of these cheeses. It’s made in the traditional method used to produce sparkling wine in the Champagne region of France, where secondary fermentation takes place entirely in the bottle. It’s fruity, refreshing, and delicious to serve with your next holiday cheese tray!
White wine cheese pairings
To broadly generalize, you’ll find that rich white wines will pair with softer-textured cheeses like Brie, although white wines pair with all types of cheese, soft or firm, mild or pungent. Dry whites pair well with soft cheeses, especially those with mild flavors, while whites with crisp acidity go well with acidic goat cheeses.
Perhaps two of my go-to white wine and cheese pairings hail from France. I love Crottin de Chavignol, a goat cheese, which is made in town of Chavignol, just 2 miles from Sancerre in the Loire Valley of France. Like I always say when it comes to food and wine pairing, “what grows together goes together”.
Goat cheese also pairs wonderfully with California Sauvignon Blanc. I love the Coppola Diamond Collection Sauvignon Blanc, which is available in both bottle and fun cans! It’s light and crisp with racy acidity and pairs wonderfully with acidic goat cheese.
Another favorite white wine and cheese pairing of mine is Chenin Blanc, also from the Loire Valley in France, paired with Chèvre, also a French goat cheese. When it comes to a similar pairing that is quite delicious, try a Viognier wine. The Francis Coppola Reserve Viognier has wonderful citrus notes similar to a Chenin Blanc and is perfectly balanced by vibrant natural acidity, which cuts through the richer, creamy cheese.
Red wine cheese pairings
Traditionally, red wines do well with firm cheeses, especially firm, aged cheeses. Red wines also pair nicely with more pungent cheese. Beware of softer-textured cheeses, which can make red wines taste thin and flabby, while emphasizing the tannins.
As cheese ages and loses water-content, it becomes richer in flavor with its increased fat content. These two attributes are ideal for matching bold red wines because the fat content in the cheese counteracts the high-tannins in the wine. For the best results, select cheeses that have been aged at least a year, including Cheddar, Gruyère, Manchego, Gouda, Provolone, or Parmesan-style varieties like Parmigiano-Reggiano and Grana Padano.
Merlot is one of my favorites to sip on with cheese and works very well with hard cheeses such as aged goat cheese that is a deeper, earthier cheese. The Director's Cut Merlot has a plush texture, and supple tannins making this a delicious pairing.
Cabernet Sauvignon gloriously pairs with firm aged cheeses such as cheddar. The Francis Coppola Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is delicious with aged cheeses. Aromas of wild berries, juniper, and baking spices transition to high volume flavors of cherries and cassis interwoven with earthy elements like espresso beans, toasted wood, forest floor and dried flowers. It’s dark, dense, and delicious with aged cheeses.
Port wine cheese pairing
Pungent, stinky, salty and delicious? Bring on the Stilton. A dark, sweet red dessert wine paired with Stilton blue cheese or even earthy aged cheddar is classic and heavenly. The rich creaminess, sharpness and saltiness of Stilton paired with the sweetness of a red dessert wine, such as the Coppola Reserve Petite Sirah Dessert Wine, which has the body of a fortified wine, creates an elegant and classic pairing.
Rachel Thralls is a Certified Sommelier and is studying to be a certified Nutrition & Holistic Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City. She is the owner of FitSomm Rachel.