You’re enjoying a good meal with friends and it’s time to bring out the cheese board – whether this should be before or after the pudding, I won’t get into that debate! But, let’s think about the wine – what should you offer with the cheese?
The first suggestion of many would be red wine except if you’re serving stilton and then open a bottle of port. I can see the port and stilton pairing: salty flavours and sweet tastes are a classic match and the stilton’s attractive saltiness is balanced nicely with the sweetness of the port. But you can widen this out: many blue cheeses are quite salty (think Roquefort) and you can choose from a variety of sweet wines, not just port. So, why not try a Sauternes, a sweet Loire white or a Greek Muscat with your Dolcelatte or Bleu d’Auvergne instead?
As for the ‘red wine with cheese’ idea, I think it depends on the sort of cheese: cheddar, comté, pecorino and other hard or semi-hard cheeses are fine with a red (a Rioja Reserva can be particularly good) but with soft cheeses – brie, camembert and like – I find a white usually goes better. What did you drink as aperitif or with your starter? Is there any of that left over? You’re looking here for a wine with plenty of acidity to cut through the fattiness of the cheese – a Sauvignon Blanc, dry Riesling or crisp Chardonnay, perhaps.
And the Sauvignon will come into its own again if there’s a soft goats’ cheese on the board: Sancerre with a Crottin de Chavignol is a perfect example of matching the food and wine of a region.
But, one final word of warning: if you enjoy the most pungent cheeses, give the wine a miss – there’s little that stands up to a really ripe Epoisses or Stinking Bishop and it would be a shame to open a bottle for it to be completely overwhelmed by its partner. And, of course, all of this comes with the usual caveat: everyone’s sense of taste is different, so the only real answer to which cheese goes with which wine is to taste and see what works best for you.