Speaking Volumes: Perfect wine and cheese pairings

November 7, 2012 

Wine and cheese can be a match made in heaven when they are correctly paired together. There are several similarities between these two products, such as they are hand-made, age well and are temperature dependent.

The temperature of the cheese has just as much impact as the temperature of the wine. Cheeses should be eaten at room temperature, which allows the flavors and aromas to fully open. If the cheese is served too cold, it can taste quite bland. Additionally, the textures of softer cheeses become more consistent as they warm up. As a general rule, remove the cheeses from the refrigerator about 45 minutes prior to serving them.

In terms of wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon tastes the best at room temperature, but we are talking about room temperature in Europe, which translates to about 65 degrees, while a Chardonnay should be served at about 55 degrees and Champagnes and sparkling wines show off their best flavors around 45 degrees.

There are several cheeses that go well with different varietals, making it possible to put together and cheese platter for a group of friends and serving both white and red wines. Camembert, Gouda and Parmesan pair equally well with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and sparkling wines. On the other hand, Brie and Gruyere are good matches for the Chardonnay and sparkling wines, but their textures don't always stand up to the dryer red wines.

Interestingly enough, Cheddar goes well with both the dry red wines and sparkling wines. Then there is the clas

sic pairing of Danish Blue and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut from Columbia Valley, Wash., is one of my favorite inexpensive sparkling wines. It is a NV (non vintage), so it tastes the same regardless of the year. This value priced wine retails for approximately $11 a bottle.

The citrus flavors in this wine pair best with the buttery flavors of the Camembert, but I found the creamy, nutty flavors of the Gouda to be a close second.

The 2010 Estancia Chardonnay from Monterey County Pinnacles Ranches is a nice value at $11 a bottle. This Chardonnay tasted crisp with citrus aromas and flavors of green apple. I liked this wine best with the somewhat nutty, but not overpowering flavors of the Gruyere.

I chose the 2008 Gallo Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon and found that it matched up quite well with the Danish Blue cheese. This Cabernet retails for approximately $14 a bottle. The Gallo Cabernet contained ample flavors of black currant and a sufficient amount of tannins to pair nicely with the sharp, spicy flavors of the Danish Blue cheese.

Deciding exactly what cheeses to use to put together a platter can be quite interesting. I have always found it best to serve more than one varietal when serving cheeses while entertaining. Next time you have friends over, try a cheese platter with wine, it is interesting to listen to your guests comments when they taste that perfect match of a specific wine and cheese pairing.

Jim Rawe, a family attorney in Bradenton, is an avid collector of fine wines. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at jimrawe@gmail.com.

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