All you Need to Know about Cheese & Wine

All you Need to Know about Cheese & Wine

If I say France, there is a very good chance that cheese, wine and baguettes pop into your mind. Perhaps alongside a beret and a striped white and blue “marinière” t-shirt. The latter may be a bit of a cliché, but the former is of vital concern in any one of the country’s regions. Not that the French are obsessed with their cheese and wine pairings, but it is undeniable that these hedonistic folk attach great importance to the delight they can deliver.

However, the different families and varieties of cheese throughout the country are dizzying in their numbers and diversity. Enough to intimidate any visitor before we even mention wine! For this reason, we have pulled together a quick overview of the different types of cheese to help you navigate its complex universe. Read on for a few guidelines and examples of wine and cheese pairings and you will be a proper expert, ready to pop on a beret and go get a baguette to go with your delightful associations.

Wine and Food Pairing pouring wine and cheese

The Cheese Family

It all starts with a little milk. Cow, goat, ewe…Serbia even makes cheese from donkey milk, the most expensive in the world! The milk is cultured and an enzyme called rennet is added to make it coagulate. You can then drain they water (whey) and start making cheese with the curds that remain.

This is where it gets a little tricky. There are many decisions to make, the cheese can be pressed and/or heated, mould can be added, the rind can be washed… any one of these processes will make a completely different cheese! We’ll see a few examples in the following section as we pair cheese from different varieties to the ideal wine.

Wine and cheese pairing

Cheese and Wine Fusions

Wine and cheese pairing

GOATS CHEESE

There are many types of goat cheese out there, with striking diversity of shapes, flavours and origins. As result there isn’t one ideal partner for this cheese but rather several more specific couples which are doing very well.

Wine and cheese pairing
  • Saint Maure de Touraine and Savennieres (Loire)
  • Crottin de Chavignol with Sancerre (Loire)

SOFT NATURAL RIND CHEESE

This cheese family comprises Camembert, Brie, Saint-Marcellin and many other cheeses with a natural or “bloomy” rind. They should be unctuous with a soft, light and generous duvet of rind which ripens the cheese from the outside in.
Wine and cheese pairing
Wine and cheese pairing
  • Camembert and Cider Brut (Normandy) “la mousse embrassant la crème”
  • Saint Félicien and Champagne
Wine and cheese pairing

SOFT WASHED RIND CHEESE

The second type of soft cheese is called washed rind, simply due to its production process. The cheese is bathed in brine – and sometimes alcohol – and this causes a different type of bacteria to grow on the surface. These cheeses develop an orange coloured rind and are often very, very smelly… On of them is actually referred to as the stinking bishop! But don’t let that stop you from enjoying the delightful creamy cheese inside. You would be missing out on a world of pleasure, which could be enhanced by the following wine pairings,
Wine and cheese pairing
  • Munster & Gewurtztraminer (Alsace)
  • Mont d’or & Bourgogne blanc vinifié en barrique (Bourgogne)

PRESSED UNCOOKED CHEESE

These next two types of cheese are made in the same way to begin with. Again, the name is quite a good indication of how they’re made: the curds are put into moulds and pressed to get rid of any excess water. And thus we get Tomme de Savoie, Mimolette, reblochon, cheddar and many more.
Wine and cheese pairing
Wine and cheese pairing
  • Cheddar & Cab Sav
  • Reblochon & Chardonnay (for the light hazelnut notes)
Wine and cheese pairing

PRESSED COOKED CHEESE

Heating the curds helps them shed as much of the whey as possible and results in cheese with a rather firm and dense structure. Think gruyere cheese, Beaufort, Comté but also Pecorino.
Wine and cheese pairing
  • Beaufort & Bourgogne blanc
  • Pecorino Toscano & Chianti Classico (Tuscany)

BLUE VEINED CHEESE

This last cheese family is easily recognizable. Once again, take a hint from the name. Here we find Roquefort, Bleu de Gex, Fourme d’ambert but also the English stilton. These can seem tricky to pair with wine but you’ll be happy to discover there are a few matches made in heaven to enjoy them through.
Wine and Food Pairing sauternes
Wine and cheese pairing
  • Roquefort & sauternes
  • Stilton & Vintage port
Hopefully you are now fully equipped to face the complex world of cheese. Now that you can classify them and tell them apart, you can begin to understand the subtleties of peculiar cheeses and fully appreciate their flavours and notes. From there you can experiment with wine pairings, starting with the suggestions above, and delve into what is undoubtedly a whole new world!

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