There are few pairings more prolific than cheese and wine—even fewer that express class and sophistication so deliciously. But what good is this artful duo if not understood in its complete complexity? Shouldn’t we also know how to avoid potential pairing pitfalls?
There are plenty of helpful rules to guide correct pairings, but few that focus on common mistakes to avoid. We’ve reduced these mistakes into categories and hope they help you make thoughtful choices the next time you pair wine and cheese.
Don’t Limit Wine Variety
Some wine drinkers may say they only drink chardonnay or merlot, but wine pairing is about the result of combination, not an emphasis on individual parts. Therefore, being open to new wine varieties is essential to properly marrying wine and cheese flavors.
Pairing wine and cheese is an exciting opportunity to explore the unfamiliar. Take advantage of this by being open to new wine varieties. Tess, for example, is a red wine blend from Napa Valley that showcases bright strawberry, raspberry and watermelon fruit, and pairs particularly well with fresh and tangy goat cheese.
Don’t Mismatch the Acid
The acidity of both wine and cheese is an important characteristic. Acid prefers acid, which means acidic wine works well with tangy, bright cheeses. For example, the astringency of fresh goat cheese would completely dismantle a buttery chardonnay—resulting in a flat and flavorless wine taste.
Don’t Avoid Sweet and Salty
While it’s important to match acidity, it’s equally important to contrast sweet and salty. Typically, older cheese is saltier; as it ages, the water evaporates, concentrating the fats and proteins and developing subtle flavor nuances.
The contrast of salt and sweet is something most of us already know and enjoy—pairing wine with cheese is no different. Rich, jammy wines with accents of berries or stone fruit can dramatically elevate a salty or nutty cheese.
For example, try an Orange Muscat with an aged Stilton or crumbled Gorgonzola or a fruity Merlot with nutty Gouda. There’s plenty of room to experiment with sweet and salty flavors. Find what works for you.
Don’t Pair Every Wine With Brie
Brie is a young, creamy cheese that’s high in fat and unbelievably delicious—too often the go-to cheese for many novice pairings. This decadent cheese is a tannin cleanser, clearing taste receptors with each bite. Use this to your advantage and pair it with high-alcohol or high-tannin wine, such as the bold flavors of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah or a buttery Chardonnay.
With these basic principles, and a bit of imagination, you too can master the art of cheese and wine pairing, one delicious sip (and bite) at a time.
Enjoy all the varieties that Peju, a family-owned winery in Napa Valley, California, has to offer. We invite you to explore our website for more information about experiencing our wines and events.