With the recent publication of the paperback edition of The Winemaker’s Hand: Conversations on Talent, Technique, and Terroir, the book’s author, Natalie Berkowitz, offers some helpful advice on how to make the most out of the trusted partnership of wine and cheese:
Cheese and wine have a centuries-old tradition as a made-in-heaven match. Gastronomes insist there is a scientific reason for the combination. Balance in the mouth is achieved because the high fat, high protein in cheese is modified by the wine’s astringency. Moreover, we like to think the combination also rests on the fundamental idea that wine and cheese have a something in common: they both start as raw products that go through fermentation. Another great advantage of their union is that cheese and wine can be enjoyed with little or no preparation.
Few hard and fast rules exist to dictate which combinations work best amid the wide spectrum of cheese and myriad wine choices. That said, here are some helpful suggestions, keeping in mind that these are the mere tip of the proverbial iceberg.
One way to simplify the situation is to match wine and cheese from the same region. In general, white wines go better with many cheeses than reds. Young, fresh cheese like Triple or double cremes, fresh goat cheese, mozzarella and ricotta match well with crisp, fruity white wines: Vouvray from the Loire Valley with its light sparkle, Sancerre, Sauvignon blanc, Chenin blanc, Champagne or a sparkling wine like Cava. Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio are perfect with creamy blue, bloomy rind and Alpine cheeses, brie, and gouda that begin to show more intense flavors. Sweet wine like a Gewurtztraminer contrasts very well with a cheese with high acidity, some blue cheeses, and Munster.
Within the red category, fruity, light red wines such a Pinot noir are especially suited to soft cheeses, especially goat cheese. Very salty cheese looks for a wine with good acidity. Rosés and Beaujolais complement soft goat cheese and buttery styles. More full-bodied reds like Merlot, Chianti and Cabernet Sauvignon are excellent choices with Gouda, Cheddar and other hard, aged cheeses with sharpness and complex flavors.
My personal advice is to uncork a favorite bottle and get it to the right temperature, unwrap the cheese and take it out of the refrigerator bringing them to room temperature. And if this is all to confusing, serve beer!