The Perfect Pair: A Guide to Wine and Cheese

Wine and chocolate are often considered a go-to combination, but for many people wine and cheese – a better culinary match – remains an elusive pairing. Whether you’re planning a romantic date at home or perusing a lengthy restaurant cheese menu, these tips from Winery Chef Dominic Orsini make it easy to prepare the perfect wine and cheese pairing.

Cheese Plate

Dominic explains in his recent cookbook, The Silver Oak Cookbook: Life in a Cabernet Kitchen, that all delicious food and wine pairings have four key elements in balance:

  • Protein: The weight of the protein matches the weight of the wine.
  • Salt: The salt in a dish amplifies wine flavors.
  • Acid: The acid in a dish matches the acid in the wine, so one does not outdo the other.
  • Fat: The tannin and acid in a wine determines the amount of fat, or mouthfeel, in a dish. For example, dishes with rich cream sauces pair better with heavier, more tannic wines.

The beauty of cheese is that it boasts all four of these elements: it’s a rich protein with a palate-coating texture, with flavors influenced by the balance of salt and lactic acid. As a result, each bite has all of the ingredients necessary for a blissful wine pairing.

The challenge – of course – is finding the right cheese to pair with the wine on your table. With thousands of cheeses (and wines) to choose from, the process can be daunting. What pairs best with Cabernet vs. Merlot vs. Sauvignon Blanc? The next time you find yourself at the cheese counter, bring these recommendations from Chef Dominic.

Dominic’s Wine and Cheese Pairing Tips

General Tips
  • As you increase the weight of your wine, increase the heft, or fat, in your cheese. Think that Triple Crème is a heavy cheese? Surprisingly, no. The cheeses with the most fat are hard, aged cheese like Parmasean.
  • Overall, don’t pair wines with cheeses that have molds, like blue or brie.
  • Round out your cheese tray with water table crackers that are neutral in flavor, and add color with dried or fresh fruits and your favorite charcuterie. Nuts and olives are also a nice addition for texture and added flavor.

Twomey Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc

Cheese type:
Fresh, soft cheese

Examples:
Goat, Feta, Fresh Mozzarella, Ricotta

Twomey Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir

Cheese type:
Medium body cheese

Examples:
White cheddar, Fiscalini Bandage Wrap 18-14 months

For California locals:
Cowgirl Creamery Wagon Wheel, Point Reyes Toma

Twomey Merlot

Merlot

Cheese type:
Medium to full-body cheese

Examples:
Vela Dry Jack, Roth Private Reserve

Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cheese type:
Full-body cheese

Examples:
2+ aged Gouda from Holland, Beemster Gouda, Piave Vecchio

Bon appétit!

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Have a food and wine pairing question? Email Chef Dominic.