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.
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
- 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.
Fresh, soft cheese
Goat, Feta, Fresh Mozzarella, Ricotta
Medium body cheese
White cheddar, Fiscalini Bandage Wrap 18-14 months
For California locals:
Cowgirl Creamery Wagon Wheel, Point Reyes Toma
Medium to full-body cheese
Vela Dry Jack, Roth Private Reserve
2+ aged Gouda from Holland, Beemster Gouda, Piave Vecchio
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Have a food and wine pairing question? Email Chef Dominic.