Cheese and wine, friends or foes?

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The debate is on: does wine and cheese go well together? There has been much discussion on the subject for decades, and the famous expression "don't let them fool you with cheese" does not leave the pairing of these two foods in a very good place, especially with red wine.

The tannins in red wine

It is said that in the past, winemakers always offered a portion of cheese to wine representatives when they gave them a tasting of some of their products, especially those of inferior quality or with some defect. In this way, they managed to "trick" the palate of the buyer, who ended up buying the bad wine as if it were of higher quality. 

Although we speak in general terms, drinking cheese with red wine is not always a good combination. The fatty proteins in the cheese block the aromas of the red wine, and the tannins do something similar to the taste of the cheese. But, as in everything, there are exceptions that take us away from the more mathematical explanations.

Harmonies with cheese

There is no single type of wine capable of harmonising well with all cheeses, but we can make some general recommendations that can help to get the most out of the pairing of these foods. The basic principle in the world of harmonies is always the balance of flavours. We need both products to complement and enhance each other. We do this by starting with the most common types of cheese on the market.

  • Fresh cheeses (goat's cheese, mozzarella, cottage cheese): due to their softness, they go very well with young, aromatic white wines, such as a verdejo from Rueda or a chardonnay, for example. If they are served with a sweet supplement (quince jelly, jam...) they go best with sweet aromatic wines, such as muscatels.

  • Creamy and fatty cheeses such as tetilla cheese, camembert, brie, etc., can be accompanied by white wines with a lot of acidity, preferably aged on lees, although they also work with wines with a slight barrel ageing. There are countless examples to be found in the wines of Rias Baixas, Ribeiro or Valdeorras. A good sparkling wine can give us great pleasure with the tingle of its bubbles as opposed to the oily and unctuous taste of the cheese.

  • Semi-matured cheeses begin to allow play with other categories of wine. Although they combine perfectly with any dry, acidic white wine, such as txakoli, we can afford the luxury of uncorking a fruity, fresh and acidic rosé or a young red or carbonic maceration wine. The idea is to play with the fruit of the wine and the lactic sensation left by the cheese itself.

  • Cured or very mature cheeses: this is a big step. Young red wines with a slight ageing in oak barrels, or mild crianzas, should let us play well in this league. The idea is that the wine we choose should have a tannin present that harmonises with any mature sheep's cheese, such as Manchego cheese with D.O. or with very mature cow's cheese. We have many options, some of the oak-aged wines we drink can work, as well as crianzas from areas that are not particularly warm and intense, such as Rioja.

  • Very strong cheeses (blue cheeses, cabrales, roquefort): they go well with fortified wines like sherry, especially  pedro ximénez, also Malaga sweets or even fondillones. Funny, but the creamy feeling and the sugar of these wines usually match perfectly with cheeses of great intensity.

Of course, this is just a basic guide to help you choose the most suitable wine, although in this, as in almost everything else, there is nothing written about taste. If we also accompany everything with bread, this serves as a catalyst between the wine and the cheese, even better if it is toasted. Do your own tests and if you find the perfect mix, do share with us all.

 

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