Why is it that cheese and wine go so well together? For me, an additional piece of brown bread on the side, and voila, a beautifully crafted dining experience has been simulated! Here is a tasty little scenario for you: Open a bottle of wine, for example a Brunello di Montalcino from Banfi, and slice off a piece of mature cheese, maybe a nice Pont L’Eveque, have some bread ready on the side. Bite into the cheese, placed on the soft bread, and savour its rich flavours, top it off with swirl of wine in the mouth. What more does one need? Okay, perhaps a nice ripe, red paprika, some black and green olives, or a juicy figg – these may enhance the experience all the more!
You have as many different kinds of cheeses as you have wine; that in itself makes them good friends. History even says that cheese was stumbled upon just like wine was! Now, cheese is normally divided into four categories; hard (Mimolette), semi hard (Cheddar), soft (Camenbert) and cream cheese (goat roll). To this, one would add the blue cheeses (Roquefort). Similarly, wine is divided into white (Chablis), rose (Sancerre), red (Beaujolais), sparkling/Champagne and sweet (Barsac) wines. There are thousands of different cheeses and most of the best cheeses come from France, which can be said of wine too. Like with wine, the countries around France and others that have tried their hand at wine producing, and make some truly great labels – many of these countries have also tried creating their own cheese. They taste different because the milk has a different taste, from the grass the animal eats, the type of milk used, and so on. However, today witnesses a world where great cheese and wine are also produced in countries outside of France.
Now to find the right wine and cheese pairing is as difficult as understanding the differences between all wines and cheeses. It’s important to have an open mind, sure, take the advice of cheese experts and of the conventional wisdom (e.g., “Red wines go better with cheeses” or “The stronger the cheese, the more complex and robust the wine should be”), but have your own opinions too. Cheese knowledge is gained empirically! You must find your own favourites, and to do so why not try as many pairings as possible, be bold and experiment, then decide which ones work best for you. Sometimes it seems that for every cheese there is a best wine partner, just as for every wine there is a best cheese partner: some cheeses, on the other hand, find many fine partners, while others just don’t work with any.
Here are some pairings which I would recommend. However remember that each person has a different tongue with different taste buds and therefore may have different likings. Cheese, followed by type of wine:
• Vacherin Mont D’Or – Champagne or Southern French Syrah
• Reblochon – German/Alsace Riesling Kabinett
• Epoisses – Sauternes
• Taleggio – Barbaresco/Barolo
• Stilton – Vintage Port, Trockenbeerenauslese
• Appenzeller – Late harvest California Chardonnay or great Gruener Veltliner
• Cheese Fondue – Dezaley form the West of Switzerland or a Silvaner from Franken
• Fresh Goat Cheese – Sancerre or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
• Camenbert, Brie’s – smooth and the best Cabernet Sauvignons from the New Worlds
The best pairings are the cheeses that also are part of a wine are: so you have Chavignol goat cheese with the Sancerre or Pouilly Fume or you have the Swiss Mountain Cheese with the Dezaley white wines of the Geneve Lake area.
So why not pop open a bottle, slice up some cheese, sit back, relax and let your taste buds do the thinking for you.
Harald Wiesmann, Restaurant Manager of the Asian inspired Haute Cuisine Kayuputi and Chief Sommelier at The St. Regis Bali Resort, has a very interesting career history spanning a number of years with different roles in various countries. His 42 years of international experience has led Kayuputi to receive prestigious awards from the Wine Spectator Magazine (USA) for six consecutive years since its opening six and a half years ago.