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Wine & cheese, please! 7 Tips on how to pair this classic combo.

Gregory McBeth
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Is there anything more wonderful than walking into a winery and sitting down for a wine tasting and cheese pairing? It’s one of life’s little luxuries that never gets old—with so many different types of wine and cheese out there, how could it?

For a stellar experience, head to winery partner Cuvaison and book a distinction tasting with cheese pairing; you’re in for a real treat. Winemaker Dan Zepponi makes a variety of Chardonnays that pair perfectly with soft creamy cheese. If you can’t get to wine country anytime soon, consider planning a wine and cheese pairing at home. Melier asked San Francisco-based cheese expert Laura Werlin to share her ideal wine and cheese combination tips. Here is what she had to say. 

1. Get a variety of cheese.

For a balanced board, choose four or five different types of cheese. Soft, hard, and blue; goat’s milk, cow’s milk, and sheep’s milk—look for various textures and milk sources. 

2. Avoid overly sweet accouterments. 

While cheese pairs wonderfully with honey and sweet jams, these sweet ingredients can overpower the wine. Use them sparingly when planning a pairing. 

3. Serve the cheese at room temperature.

To fully understand a cheese’s taste and texture, it should be at room temperature. Soft cheese will naturally come to room temp quicker than hard cheese. Remove the cheese from the fridge about 45 minutes before you plan to eat it. 

4. Drink sparkling. 

You can’t go wrong with sparkling wine. Generally speaking, dry sparkling wines pair wonderfully with most types of cheese, from classic goat cheese to blue cheese to Australian cheddar. Try Cuvaison’s 2017 Méthode Champenoise, Brut Rosé with Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co’s toma

5. Or white wine. 

“White wines tend not to have the tannins that are found in red wines,” Werlin explains, “and tannins are not most cheese’s friends.” Stay in the middle category of white wine. Don’t go too oaky or too acidic. Match the wine to the cheese. So if you’re doing a light cheese, select a more delicate bodied white wine to pair with it. Experiment with Keplinger’s Eldorado blend of Viognier, Roussane, and Grenache Blanc and Cowgirl Cremery’s Mt. Tam

6. If you must pair red with cheese, choose a milder red. 

Big California cabs are not ideal with cheese. Instead, try lighter-style reds, like Spanish Tempranillo or Italian Sangiovese. For a red pairing that will most likely taste good, choose a sharp cheddar and light red—say Cabot sharp white cheddar with Ghost Block’s 2018 Elizabeth Rose Pinot Noir.  

7. Slow down and be mindful.

Taste the wine, then nibble a little cheese, then take another sip of wine. Don’t rush through this sort of pairing. Take the time to think about how the wine and cheese feel in your mouth. Have fun with it!

Photo by Melissa Walker Horn