There are many reasons to celebrate and enjoy a glass of white wine in May.
The 5th is International Sauvignon Blanc Day, the 17th is Pinot Grigio Day, and the 25th is Chardonnay Day. Who needs any more reasons than that to raise a glass?
White wine and cheese pairing is a subject dear to my heart. Many people feel that red is a more natural fit, but I’m not so sure. Several areas are large cheese producers, and their most famous wines are whites. Think of the Loire Valley, its diverse white grapes, and all the delicious goat cheeses produced nearby. Picture a glass of Sancerre and a tiny, dry, powerful Crottin de Chavignol. It’s a perfect pairing, and the white wine is the key.
There are some famous white wine and cheese pairings, but I think there are many more styles to try with a glass this May. I think it’s always fun to experiment and try whatever cheese is in your fridge with whatever wine you have open, but if you are going to be more purposeful, these are some varieties I might try.
Washed rind cheeses – the lovely earthy, slightly damp, and granular-crusted washed rind cheeses are a great match with many whites. I would say a medium-strong type like Chaumes or Morbier from France, Fou du Roy or Tete Dure from Quebec, or even Oka, which is a little easier to find. I might not go for the strongest washed rinds like Epoisses or Langres with a dry white, but it would be worth a taste if you had an off-dry selection.
Soft Ripened – the range of soft-ripened cheese from Camembert to triple creams seems ideal for white wines, compared to reds. However, the taste of the crust and the uniquely earthy, vegetal tastes you can encounter with this cheese category seem destined to clash with big red wines. Although, of course, you might find a good match from time to time, I think, more often than not, the cheese is likely to kill your wine, and you will be left with a weird metallic taste in your mouth. Not really the result we are looking for. I would say a traditional Camembert or Brie de Meaux with Chardonnay, and once you go to the richer but milder double or triple creams, the lighter whites, anything with some good acidity will work well.
Hard, sharp cheeses are easier to pair with all wines in general, but some seem to love white wine varietals. Italian cheese, especially Piave Vecchio, Parmigiana Reggiano, Grana Padano and Bra Duro, are great for anything you have open. Still, some Swiss and French mountain cheese seem more appropriate for a glass of white. The earthy, savoury flavours that pop up in mountain cheeses can be challenging with some red varietals, but they seem to make a whole battery of whites sing. Try Kaltback Creamy, Le Marechal, Abondance or Comté for starters.
Cheddar – don’t scoff at cheddar and think it’s too mundane. So often, when trying to find an excellent match for a particular wine, the cheddar is the cheese that pairs the best. Always try to buy an older cheddar aged for two years or more. An older cheese will have more complex flavours and a better texture, as well as the fact that to age that long it probably just started as a better-quality cheese. Some that I love are a three-year-old cheddar from Quebec or Ontario, White Fox, and Black Bomber from the UK, and one of my favourite pairings lately is a 2017 Reserve Cheddar from Cows Creamery PEI and a BC Chardonnay.
My long-winded message is that white wine and cheese are more natural than you think.
I’ve talked about too many cheeses and way too many wine styles to offer pairing suggestions. My one word of caution would be that if you are trying to get a great match with your cheese and wine, every different taste you add makes the chance of a perfect match less likely. Keep it simple!
Here are some white wines the team at GOW highly recommends you try to serve with cheese.