It’s great to focus on wine-friendly cheeses occasionally, and what better reason than the Vancouver International Wine Festival.
Of course, I’m a firm believer in pairing however you like, but personally, I have a few things I always look for in a cheese board if I’m trying to do a more serious tasting.
Wine is expensive, and a lot of effort and thought has gone into making, buying, and possibly cellaring it. I never want to recommend cheeses that detract from anyone’s wine selection. The perfect choices would complement your wine and might even enhance the flavour. Amazingly, that doesn’t happen that often. The best outcome is when the taste of the cheese and the wine is lifted a bit, but sometimes you have to settle for the two just not clashing altogether. If it is a bad match, it might bring out off flavours in the wine or in the cheese and can sometimes, you can be left with an unpleasant metallic taste in your mouth as though you had been chewing on tin foil. Nobody wants that!
If you’re going to be having an extensive variety of wines together, or you’re unfamiliar with the wines you’ll be tasting; it’s nice to have a list of some cheeses you can count on to pair equally well with all of them. These are some of our go-to wine-friendly cheeses. This list doesn’t include very many soft cheeses because they are a lot less dependable than firm cheeses as far as a pairing goes.
- Swiss Mountain cheeses. Gruyere and Cave Aged Gruyere should be available in lots of grocery stores near you, and Le Marechal, Kaltbach Creamy and Mont Vully are other great choices that may need a bit of research.
- French Mountain cheeses. Things like Comté Montagne, Beaufort or Cantal are dependable, nutty-tasting choices that are good with various wine styles.
- Dutch Aged Gouda. There are many types available, but you’re looking for something a bit golden in colour that is aged for at least one to two years (or even longer). Some good bets are Beemster XO, Prima Donna, Old Amsterdammer, or Rembrandt. There are also a few goat versions to keep in mind, like Honeybee Goat Gouda and Franz Hals Goat Gouda.
- Manchego. The classic Spanish sheep’s milk cheese. They range from younger and fruitier to more aged and sharper, but any version tends to be a good bet. There is no gamey taste at all, and just as good with Champagne as a Rioja.
- Piave Vecchio. It is a very hard cheese from the north of Italy. It is fantastic with almost everything and incredibly amazing with bubbles.
- Parmigiano Reggiano. Who doesn’t have a chunk of Reggiano or Grana in their fridge? You may not have bought it for eating with wine, but why not? The great sharpness and nuttiness make it a natural. It’s a fun cheese to break up in rough chunks to add to your wine-friendly board.
- Fresh Goat. Even though it’s not my favourite category, just a simple chevre frais is always so much easier to pair than I think it will be. You might think the tangy, tartness would distract from the wines, but often it seems to make the cheese taste creamy and rich and bring out the fruity flavours in the wine.
- Accompaniments: Keeping it simple seems to be the answer if you concentrate on your wines. I would suggest sliced baguettes, a simple unflavoured cracker, some toasted nuts and perhaps some dried fruit. That should be enough but not too much to take your focus away from your glass.