“Buy wine with water but sell wine with cheese”. This is an old French proverb, and it does ring true. Wine and cheese are not instantly a perfect match, and just like pairing chocolate and wine, there are some key elements to take into account.
What is cheese? Well, don’t tell your waistline, but cheese is essentially fat and salt - delicious creamy fat and salt. These are not attributes that pair well with dry wine traditionally. That being said, it hasn’t stopped almost ever cellar door on earth having a variety available to nibble on while you sample their wares. Fat blocks the wine from getting to your cheeks - it coats your mouth and hence the texture of the wine is changed. Salt, too, changes the wine considerably. While it may not be the most popular thing to say out loud, the best cheese and wine matches are with sweet wines, not dry table wines. There are always exceptions, but sweeping generalisations are far more efficient.
Here are two exceptions for dry wine and cheese pairings. Old chardonnay and hard cheddar is quite a delicious marriage, as is blue cheese and very old cabernet wines, and an old Bordeaux (particularly if someone else is paying) is really quite something. I find young reds too clunky with most cheeses, and the cellar door experience is mostly taking advantage of the fact that serving everyone a little slow-cooked beef cheek is just impractical. If you are not into dessert wines, then look to the styles of Alsatien whites, like Pinot
Gris and Gewurztraminer. There needs to be some residual sugar for this to work, but you need not go all the way into fully sweet. If you find these delicious aromatic whites from the likes of Hugel, or Rene Mure and Dopff, then go in search of soft and pungent cheese. If you can find some Munster or Epoisses, you will be on your way to a very good lunch indeed. A little heads-up here - be careful not to touch the cheese with your fingers as it really is quite generous in the odour department.
I like soft, white gooey cheese, like ripe camembert and fraomager d’affinois. This cheese is designed for a host of wines, starting with Perry, or pear cider as it is often called in Australia. The white mould, triple cream ‘mouthgasm’ as some call it, is also a wonderful match with sweet botrytis effected Semillon, like De bortoli Noble one. The saltiness of the cheese and the sweetness of the wine are brilliant together, and the acid of the wine cuts through the glorious fat and makes your mouth instantly ready for another bite. This, to me, is the ultimate in cheese and wine matching. Find some good quality bread, a nice patch of green to lay a picnic blanket and just enjoy these good things in life. Taking friends is optional if you are prepared to share.