A SIMPLE GUIDE TO PAIRING CHEESE WITH WINE
How often have you thought about dipping your toe in the world of cheese and wine pairing, only to find that when you’ve removed your shoe, edging your freshly manicured toe towards the water’s edge, some wine snob makes you feel like you’ll never understand words like terroir, tannins, mousse and second fermentation, and you give up. But the truth is, you don’t need to know any of that stuff to enjoy wine. Think about it; wine is made for drinking, only a handful of winos write dissertations on it. So, when putting together your cheese platter – and choosing a great wine to go with it – don’t get tripped up by all the things you don’t know about the subject. Cheese and wine are alive, you can never know everything about either one. Use this guide to putting together not just the perfect spread, but one that is perfectly you.
So, let’s imagine we’re in the cheese aisle and figuring out what to get amongst all those cheeses ranging from imported French to local and lekker. You want variety, but don’t overdo it by loading one of each cheese into your basket. Start with a soft cheese, then a hard cheese, and finally, a pungent blue-style cheese. Then, all you need to figure out is how much cheese based on how many guests will be at your gathering.
Something like brie or camembert
Both are soft, cow’s milk cheeses, although don’t be afraid of a similar style cheese made of a combination of cow and goat’s milk cheese, like Roydon. The flavour will be more intense, but well balanced and super satisfying. This style of soft cheese should be creamy, pungent and sweet. Brie and camembert are very similar in style, although camembert has a thinner rind, resulting in less bitterness.
Pair it with…
Viognier: The luscious saline creaminess of Viognier harmonises with the texture of the cheese, while the floral characteristics pick up the sweetness of a soft cheese.
Brut Rosé: The starry bubbles of this dry bubbly are tamed somewhat by the creaminess of the brie. When opting for a dry but fruit-forward bubbly like De Grendel’s Proposal Hill, the red berry fruit flavours in the wine complement the cheese’s sweeter notes, relieving the tension between the pungent rind of the cheese and the floral notes of the paste, and the battle between the creaminess of the cheese and the dry, crisp notes of the bubbly.
Something like a Gruberg or a Boerenkaas
Some hard cheeses boast a graininess that complements the crisp fizz of both a Brut bubbly and a Normandy-style cider, which is made in a very similar style to champagne, only with apples.
Pair it with…
Brut: Gruberg has a nutty tang that makes a great companion to Cap Classique, which is often described as “nutty, yeasty or biscuity”.
Cider: A good cider stands up to some of the best bubblies and makes a great companion to cheese. De Grendel’s Three Spades Cider is made from Elgin apples and makes for a wonderful palate cleanser between cheeses. The fruity, sweet elements in the cider offset the saltiness of the cheese beautifully, and is equally at home alongside the pool or as a centrepiece at your table during your next gathering.
Something like a Roquefort-style cheese
See it as an ode to odour. Blue cheese is made of Penicillium, a mould that accounts for the blue or green veins so prevalent in this style of cheese.
Pair it with…
Pinot Noir: Mould is closely related to mushrooms, which often lends blue cheese a “forest floor” taste. Pinot Noir has often been described as having a similar flavour, although some Pinots tend to lean more towards “hard candy”, something that happens when the grape is grown in too hot a climate, so do a bit of research before you pick your Pinot. It is a more discerning wine, but whatever Pinot you prefer, decant it about an hour before you plan to serve it. It’s at its best when it’s had time to breathe.
Dessert Wine: Few wines stand up to the overpowering nature of blue cheese, which is why sweeter wines are a great go-to.