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Say Cheese: Picturing the Perfect Wine Combo

Written by Jennifer Jordan
Filed Under: Wine and Food Pairing

The combination of wine and cheese may sound a little cliche, perhaps, dare I say, even a little cheesy. Still, since their invention, wine and cheese have been a dazzling duo, going together like strawberries and champagne, Merlot and steak, boxed wine and Taco Bell. Doing it their way, yes their way, wine and cheese are the Laverne and Shirley of the alcohol industry.

It may seem odd that two such separate entities have the ability to do this. After all, these two products come from seemingly opposite poles: wine is made to perfection; cheese can be processed to fit into a spray can and forego refrigeration. Wine is served with lobster; cheese is sprinkled on top of spaghetti and meatballs. Pouring wine is synonymous with sophistication, cutting cheese is a euphemism for passing wind. Nonetheless, when consumed together, cheese compliments wine like no other food, it's as if chunks of cheddar continually go up to bottles of Riesling to tell them how well they've aged.

The regular rules of food pairings - pairing white wine with white meat and red wine with red meat - do not apply to cheese and wine coupling, as most cheese is white or orange, or, if kept for too long, white and orange with soft green spots. Thus, in order to succeed in a proper pairing, we have to look beyond, viewing through the holes of a Swiss piece of cheese into an entirely different world.

Cheddar or Feta?

Generally, there are several guidelines that can be followed to achieve maximum wine/cheese pairing potential. Many people believe that the flavor of the cheese and the wine should be similar. For example, a strong or sharp cheese should be paired with a full-bodied wine, where a subtle and light cheese should be paired with a light or dessert wine. This kind of equality helps keep the two entities on the same level, disallowing one to overpower the other. Others believe that the wine and the cheese should hail from the same region: it is their belief that a French wine and a French cheese go together as well as beer and the state of Wisconsin. Still, others believe that it all comes down to texture: red wine should go with hard cheese and white wine should go with soft cheese.

Some of the most commonly loved examples of wine and cheese combos are Brie and Cabernet; Mild Cheddar with Pinot Blanc; Strong Cheddar with Cabernet, Rioja, or Sauvignon Blanc; Colby or Monterey Jack with Riesling; Feta with Beaujolais; Provolone with Chardonnay; Stilton and Port; and Baby Swiss - Baby Swiss of course being what happens when two pieces of cheese really love each other - and Chardonnay.

When you really get to the nitty gritty, wine and cheese, like anything that involves eating or drinking, all comes down to individual taste. There are literally hundreds of different types of wine and hundreds of different types of cheese; everyone is bound to find something they like, even if it seems to go outside the general guidelines. There may be people who find that a sharp cheddar is great with a light Vernaccia. There may be people who find feta to go exceptionally well with champagne. There may be people who swear that the duo of a 1787 Chateau Lafite and a bag of cheese puffs is the greatest combination at all. Anything, whether ordinary or not, can go. When it comes to wine, there are thousands of ways to say cheese.