Wine and Cheese Pairing

There are no hard and fast rules for pairing wine and cheese.

But one thing to keep in mind as you start:

Try a wine first before trying it with any cheese. Why?

Because cheese can dull a wine’s initial personality. Think of tasting first as a polygraph test for wine. The truth will only come out when you know its baseline.

There are different ways to approach wine and cheese.

Here are some basic pairing methods you can use:


Pairing wine and cheese from the same country is an easy way to start. For example, an Italian Chianti and a Parmigiano Reggiano are a potent pair, as well as a Spanish Manchego with an Albariño wine.


Salty cheeses are amazing with a sweet wine (like a pungent washed rind cheese or a Blue Cheese with Port; or an aged gouda with Sauternes). It’s all about balancing the sweetness. If you’re a Cracker Jack fan, this method is for you.


Pairing by style. White wines match best with soft cheeses and high flavors due to acidity. Red wines match best with hard cheeses and clean flavors due to solid structure. A strong cheese and a delicate light red are probably not as good an idea as a soft Port Salut with an aromatic white.


Sparkling wine goes with almost anything. From creamy light cheeses to heavy solid cheeses, you can probably pair it with a sparkling wine. It’s usually a successful, if not obnoxiously decadent pairing. Lovely.



-Avoid pairing an overly tannic wine (tannins give that cotton mouth feel like in a Syrah or a young Cabernet Franc) with cheese. If you must, a strong cheese will hold up.

-If wanting to do a cheese pairing with a red wine. Go for a more fruit or acidic based red wine (Merlot, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Beaujolais, Pinot Noir). Remember: strong cheeses bring out fruit in wine but can also destroy most light wines. So pair accordingly.

- Very strong, salty cheeses often go best with off-dry or sweet wines (a buttery Reggiano with Proseco is lovely).

-Rule of thumb: in general, white wine and sweeter wine is more cheese user-friendly.

-Creamy cheeses unfortunately don’t truly soften tannins in wine. You can try, but don’t pair based on it.

-The creamier the cheese (such as Brie or tangy fresh Goat), the better it pairs with acidity, like a Chardonnay or Merlot.

-The harder the cheese (Aged Cheddar or Pecorino for example) the more it can deal with tannins or heavier wines.


Did you ever wonder why there are times you are at a pairing, wine flight, tasting,

winery, party or dinner and try a wine that you love, then buy said wine.

Weeks later, you try it again and you think it’s lousy?

I call it the “Of the Moment Phenomenon”.

What is it?

The next time you try a wine or a wine and cheese pairing, the wine may not taste the same as the last time. You may love it even more or hate it.


You are product of the moment. With cheese, food or wine alone, what you specifically taste before that wine and after that wine will affect the taste of the present wine.

So, don’t blame yourself for a bad bottle purchase or think you’re crazy. Unless you do the exact same tasting or pairings, you may not like it the same as you did the first time.

Weird, huh?


Experiment with your own pairings and see what combinations you can come up with that wow. If it tastes good, do it!

Remember the most important TIP of all:




Fresh goat cheese: Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis, light Pinot Noir

Aged goat cheese: Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc

Pungent Camembert: smooth Merlot, Sauternes, Riesling

Aged Gouda: Sauternes, Chardonnay, Syrah, Gewürztraminer

Aged Provolone: Chianti, Sangiovese

Aged Gruyere: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Merlot, Alsace Riesling

Parmigiano: Chardonnay, Proseco, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barolo

Blue Cheese/Stilton: Port, Ice Wine, Tokai, Madeira

English Cheddar: Port, Merlot

And the ultimate multi-tasker…

Champagne with: St. Andre, Brie, Camembert, Edam, Gouda, Chevre, Gruyere, Parrano, Port Salut, milky cheeses and more!

REMEMBER, some of the cheese-friendliest wines are:

Sparkling, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Merlot, Port, Sauternes, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir.

Safe cheese bets when serving several wines:

Parmigiano, Pecorino, non-smoked Gouda, Brie, Camembert.

So go break the “rules” and see what happens.

That is sometimes the best part.

Have fun!