Finding the perfect wine and cheese match is an absolutely delightful palate experience, but choosing the right wine for each cheese isn't always easy.
So, what should we focus on? What criteria should we use to get us started? One option is to pair wines and cheeses from the same region. We could also base our pairing on the fat content of the cheese, or the level of acidity, tannins, or residual sugar in the wine.
Generally speaking, and focusing on organoleptic intensity, we could say that strong cheeses do well with young reds or velvety whites, whereas more subtle cheeses will find a worthy match in full-bodied reds and dry whites.
Cheese assortment with preserves and crispy toast at the restaurant El Celleret (Pacs del Penedès)
It is true that in our collective wine pairing imagination we tend to associate cheese with red wine, but in fact white wines are the more reliable partner. The proteins and fat in the cheese can cancel out the molecules that give red wines their aromatic range. At the same time, the tannins in red wines can alter the personality and flavour of the cheese.
As a point of reference, soft cheeses like the famous Camembert or Brie find a good match in dry whites with a certain earthy, mineral nuance – for example, the invariably invigorating wines of the Sauvignon Blanc variety. Fransola (DO Penedès) is a perfect choice.
Similarly, hard cheeses like Manchego or Idiazabal seek the firm structure of fine, oak-aged reds – wines like Las Pisadas (DOC Rioja) or Celeste Reserva (DO Ribera del Duero). Here the intensity and sensuous fruit concentration of Tempranillo meld delightfully on the palate with the flavour and texture of sheep cheeses. The elegant Chardonnay of Sons de Prades (Conca de Barberà) invites fish, seafood, and rice dishes, but also combines beautifully with aged or goat cheeses.
Cheese assortment at El Celleret (Pacs del Penedès) paired with the red Las Pisadas
As we have seen, it is true that certain strong, washed-rind cheeses like Munster do pair well with red wines. Purgatori (DO Costers del Segre) and Perpetual (DOQ Priorat) are dense, deep wines that are also fresh and velvety – the right characteristics to harmonize with this particular cheese.
Among the latest gastronomic trends, cheese seems to be gathering renewed momentum and prestige in the restaurant world, including as a briny dessert, which opens the door to wonderful sparkling wine combinations. If we're talking about mature hard cheeses and/or smoked cheeses, we need to find a long-aged, quality sparkling wine with a distinct personality whose organoleptic characteristics won't be overwhelmed by the briny tang and potent flavours of these cheeses – which makes our Vardon Kennett a perfect fit.