Wine and Cheese
Cheese is a popular and delicious pairing for wine. But with the wide variety of cheeses and Missouri wines available, how do you know what goes best with what? The good news is that there are no laws in the food and wine pairing department. Part of the fun is trying your own pairings to see what complements your palate the best. While experimentation is great, there are a few tasty recommendations and guidelines that can help steer you in the right direction.
As a general rule, red wines typically pair well with mild to sharp cheeses, and strongly flavored cheeses like bleu or gorgonzola, go well with port and late harvest (sweet) wines.
It might help to think of cheese in four different categories by texture: soft, semi-soft, semi-hard and hard.
Some examples of soft cheeses are Brie, feta, goat, mascarpone, Muenster and Neufchatel. The crisp, clean Seyval and the dry, full-bodied Chardonel are great wines to pair with softer cheeses. Missouri sparkling wine is also a good match because creamy textured cheeses tend to coat the mouth. The bubbles act as an excellent palate cleanser.
Semi-soft cheeses have a texture that is just slightly harder than the soft cheeses. The most common examples are Baby Swiss, Colby, Fontina, Havarti and Morbier. Try a semi-sweet to sweet wine like Catawba with the Baby Swiss. Stick with the drier Chardonel for the Havarti. These are great snacking cheeses. Havarti is often made with chilies or other intense spices. If you’re having a spicy cheese, try a slightly more complex wine like Chambourcin.
Semi-hard cheeses are less delicate than the others in the cheese family. As they age, they become more pungent. Some common semi-hard cheeses include Cheddar, Chesire, Colby-Jack, Gouda, Monterey Jack, Provolone, Roquefort and Stilton. One of the most popular pairings in the wine world is the rich Stilton with a sweet Port. The fruity white wine, Vignoles, is also a good match with these types of cheeses. Other great options are medium-bodied wines like the earthy Chambourcin and the dry, white Seyval.
And finally we arrive at the hard cheeses, which are some of the most intense in the bunch. At times affectionately deemed “stinky cheeses,” Asiago, Gruyere, Parmesan, Reggiano, Romano and Swiss fall into the hard cheese category. These strong cheeses go great with the more tannic red wines like Norton and Chambourcin. They will also pair nicely with a dry Vignoles.
Again, this is only a guide. As you have seen, there are Missouri wines that pair nicely with many different types of cheese. The possibilities are endless! The best way to find out what you like is to try new combinations. Host your own wine and cheese tasting
Host the Perfect Wine and Cheese Tasting
What’s better than wine and cheese? Wine and cheese enjoyed with friends! Let us help you host the perfect wine and cheese tasting for an unforgettable, good time with your loved ones.
Selecting the Cheese
Keep in mind three key components when selecting the cheeses for your wine and cheese tasting: Flavor, Texture, and Aroma. You’ll want a variety of each. Soft and semi-soft cheeses such as goat, brie and havarti are popular and fairly accessible even for the less exotic cheese-lover’s palate. Don’t be scared off by particularly pungent cheese. They often don’t taste as strong as they smell. At least one aged option is a great addition to any cheese spread, and a hard cheese or two will add some exciting difference in texture.
How much is enough?
If the cheese will be the main fare for the event, plan on 4-6 ounces per person. If you plan to serve other foods or the event is after a meal (Cheese and wine make a great ‘dessert’!), you could probably get by with 2-4 ounces per person.
Choosing the Accompaniments
Cheese and wine alone are great, but adding in some interesting textures and flavors of fruit, nuts and breads can take your tasting to the next level. Offer a selection of breads and crackers alongside your cheeses in different shapes and sizes. Try jarred condiments such as spicy mustards, sweet preserves or honey, and tart chutneys for a no hassle addition. Various other sweet and salty items such as cured meats, candied nuts, olives, and dried fruits are wonderful in conjunction with a good selection of cheeses.
Pairing the Perfect Wines
Food and wine pairings are really just a suggestion. There is a high level of subjectivity and we encourage you to try some different things and find your own favorites.
Separate cheeses with strong aromas to opposite sides of the serving tray or even their own plate. Have a separate knife for each cheese and be sure the knives with the harder cheeses are up to the task. Remove the cheeses from the refrigerator 30-45 minutes before your guests are set to arrive. If the cheeses are too cold it can mute the flavors. The same can be said of the wine you are serving. Good serving temperatures for wine are 65 degrees for red wine, 55 for white wine, and 45 for sparkling wine. Label each cheese so you don't have to recite what they are over and over throughout the evening. We have created labels perfect for this purpose.
Wine and Chocolate
There are so many different ways to enjoy chocolate: cakes, cookies, ice creams, bars, truffles and soufflés, to name a few. The possibilities are endless.
How do you even begin pairing your favorite chocolate-y treat with your favorite Missouri wine? Don’t let the diverse selection intimidate you. There are a few solid, basic rules to know that will guide you to getting the most from your wine and chocolate pairing.
First things first: The chocolate should never be sweeter than the wine it accompanies.
Chocolates that have a higher percentage of cacao often go best with a dry, red wine like Norton or a spicy Chambourcin. If you are purchasing bars of chocolate for eating or cooking, don’t let the typical “dark chocolate” label trick you. A lot of dark chocolates still tend to be on the sweet side. Check the percentage of cacao and sugar on the label and move forward accordingly.
For a more savory chocolate dessert, try a flourless chocolate cake. Substitute semisweet chocolate chips with locally made dark chocolate, pop open a bottle of Missouri Norton, and you’re set.
If you have a sweet tooth, stick with sweet wines. Seems pretty simple, right? Chocolate candy, truffles and ice cream go great with the sweet and fruity Concord or medium-bodied Catawba.
Vignoles is a diverse Missouri varietal that is often delicious as a late-harvest dessert wine. Try it with a rich, chocolate cheesecake or easy-to-make chocolate chip cookies. If you’re feeling adventurous, try baking your own chocolate soufflés, which pair perfectly with the semi-dry Seyval Blanc.
Of course, you don’t have to be an outstanding pastry chef to benefit from these suggestions. Next time you are eating out with friends, remember these tips when it’s time to order dessert with your favorite glass of Missouri wine!