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Snooth User: Kirstin

"Reds for Cheeses: Meeting Demand with Suggestions"

Posted by Kirstin, Mar 4, 2008.

Despite the fact that white wines are ridiculously easier to pair with cheese than reds, some people still refuse to go walk on the light side even when they break out their cheese board.

"I don't like white," they say, wrinkling their noses. Well, I often find these people annoying because its quite clear that they just haven't hand the RIGHT white (yes, I also think that I'm the right person to find it for them), I can't be too upset because I too used to be a hater.

Even though I have long realized my wrongs and apologized to the Trebbianos, the Sauvignon Blancs, the Rieslings of the world, some people are not at that point.

In honor of people who haven't yet found the light-hued wine that touches their heart, this post is about finding them a red to pair with cheeses that seemingly prefer whites.

Why do most cheeses generally fair better with whites?

Whether it's the tannins, the heaver body, or the difference in flavors in reds that leads to the red-cheese conflict, I'm not entirely sure. I tell myself a story that its the scents and flavors in the wine that make the difference- that the apple, pear, quince, or light fig flavors in white wine, for example, naturally taste better with cheese than the blackberry, strawberry or raspberry, chocolate or tar flavors often found in reds. It's possible. I'd rather have an apple with cheese than a raspberry.

Whatever the reason, the combination of red wine and cheese can taste off. Bitter, overly salty, astringent, or more gym sock-like than mass-produced, grated "Parmesan." This isn't good.

Here are two ways to find a red for your cheese:

1. If the cheese is European, what do people of the region from which the cheese comes sip with that cheese? In the Loire Valley, people drink their local wines, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, or Chenin Blanc with their local cheeses. They're smart, those guys, they make sure that their local wines pair well their local foods. I firmly believe that if they didn't, the towns would run the cheese or winemakers out of the region.If you have the wine you're enjoying that night in your hand, walk into the cheese shop and tell them you want dairy deliciousness from the Loire Valley. Or, switch it up and walk into a wine shop with a Loire Valley cheese. A good cheesemonger or wine salesperson will meet your needs.

2. Choose a Rhone Valley wine from France or a Rhone-blend. Grenache, Syrah, and Mouvedre, the main grapes of a Rhone blend, are a god-send to red-heads. Anything from Chateauneuf-du-Pape to Cote du Rhone, to a Minervois Rhone-inspired blend will do. The spicy, earthy, meaty, peppery flavors gracing the wines snuggle up to familiar tastes in the cheeses without bringing out the "animal" scents in say, an aged, funky sheep's cheese. Sometimes these Rhone blends even have aromas of mushroom that matches the savory flavors in the more pungent cheeses.

3. Sometimes, just sometimes, a thick, super fruity, low alcohol Zinfandel with a touch of residual sugar can cozy up to a ripe cheese like no other wine. The concentrated, heavier bodied lush wine essentially caresses the cheese into wine pairing submission.

4. Get to like whites! Start with a dry Riesling, Viognier, or another aromatic white. I've heard that they're delicious with cheese.

What do you pair with your cheeses?

Kirstin Jackson Ellis works as a wine bar manager and wine and food consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area and writes about wine and food pairing at Vin de La Table , her luxurious and lighthearted blog.


Reply by Philip James, Mar 4, 2008.

2 ways with 4 points? I like your style!

Point #1, is great, its really the cheaters guide to food and wine pairing and not to be underestimated. "What to have with this Tuscan dish? How about a Tuscan wine?" Ive used such a line far too many times when I cant think through a wine list fast enough.

As for wine and cheese I go for big cheese and big wines, so Blue stinky cheese with a big tannic cab.Yes thats lots of tannin, but I love it, and am likely to throw some walnuts down with it all too.

Blog comment by alesha, Mar 4, 2008.

So, I must admit I am one of those people who automatically pair red wine with my cheeses. I think I am so used to other people pairing the two at parties that I tend to follow the same pattern. I think I need to open my horizon and start to add some other wines to my cheeses?

Kirstin- Do you have any suggestion of what cheese go well with sparkling wines?

Reply by Kirstin, Mar 4, 2008.

Phillip: Wow. I can't handle a blue and a cab together. That's fierce. I like my blues with Rieslings or Chenin Blancs generally. But there is one blue cheese, Cashel, that I think is awesome with reds.
Alesha- I love sparklings with bloomy rind cheeses- especially those that are higher in fat, like Brie de Meaux, Mt. Tam, Nancy's Camembert.

I also some a few other cheese and wine pairing explorations at, under the "Cheese" category. Sounds like I should bring more up here.

Blog comment by annie, Mar 4, 2008.

this is why i hate the fact that my body decided a year ago that it would start rejecting lactose.

my favorite was Sottocenere al Tartufo with a burgundy.

boo hoo.

Reply by Mark Angelillo, Mar 5, 2008.

Great suggestions, Kirstin. I'm going to start walking into more wine stores with cheese in hand. And on the subject of local wines with the local foods, I really can't complain with an earthy red from Italy alongside my fresh mozzarella.

Reply by Kirstin, Mar 5, 2008.

These pairings all sound great. I'm a sucker for burrata- fresh mozzerella with cream between the curd layers- with a Tocai Fruliano, Prosecco, or.... a red Nero D'Avola.

Blog comment by Dan, Mar 6, 2008.

I tend to shy on the white wine and cheese side. Although, I like a Caciocavallo (an aged Italian provolone) with Nero d'Avola, Frappato or, for white, Insolia. And thanks for the suggestions. Pairing wines and cheeses have always been something I wish I had better experience with.

Blog comment by Herman, Mar 11, 2008.

I agree. Good idea.

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