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Five Tips for Flawless Wine and Cheese Pairings

February 11th, 2014 No comments

8354435679_02e6638c08_oWine and cheese is a classic combination. Whether it takes the form of a lavish spread laid out at a cocktail party, or a simple and elegant course at a dinner party, a wine and cheese pairing is something no guest is ever disappointed to see. But making the perfect wine and cheese match can be intimidating. These five tips break down the process and making finding the perfect wine and cheese combination a snap.

1. The only rule is: there are no rules.

Rules and tips can help you, but they can also make you feel paralyzed. That’s why it’s important to keep in mind that the rules are meant to be broken. The most essential thing about choosing a wine and a cheese to pair is to pick something that tastes good to you. Trust your taste buds: if you want to come back for a second bite, your guests will too.

Here are some helpful tips for food and wine pairings.

2. Choose matching intensities.

You don’t want your wine to overpower your cheese or your cheese to overpower your wine. If one flavor swallows up the other, the balance will be lost. The best way to avoid that is to aim for the intensity of your wine to match that of your cheese. Mild cheese pair better with lighter wines, and pungent cheeses tend to pair better with more robust wines.

3. Go by region.

One good standby technique is to pair wines and cheeses from the same region. Similar soils and growing conditions tend to result in flavor compounds that are the same between the wines and cheeses from a specific region. For example, a smooth Cabernet Sauvignon from the Pacific Northwest region should pair nicely with a local smoked gouda.

4. Think about presentation.

The saying is true: we eat with our eyes. No matter how beautifully your chosen cheeses and wines work together, your guests just won’t fully appreciate them if you serve them with a flimsy knife for cutting, and crackers that don’t do them justice. Use a wood or marble cheese platter on which to display your cheese, with plenty of cheese knives, and a variety of crackers or a simple french baguette, sliced thinly.

5. Temperature is important.

It will be impossible to appreciate the full flavors of your wines and cheeses if you serve them at the wrong temperature. White wine should be served at 45-50°F, red wines at 50-65°F. Cheese should always be served at room temperature: bring it out of the fridge an hour before you plan to serve it to take the chill off.

Wine and Cheese, Please!

April 27th, 2011 No comments

Wine and cheese image courtesy of tajt.com

Wine and cheese platters are customarily a part of many people’s celebrations. But choosing the right cheese to accompany your wine of choice, or vice versa, is not always easy. And just as serving wine at an improper temperature can bring out its worst, serving a badly-paired cheese will also impair the taste of a wine. That said, here are a few general tips when pairing wines with cheeses.

White wines are best served with soft cheeses (including spreadable ones) and stronger-flavored cheeses. Chardonnay pairs well with Cheddar and Provolone, Gewurtztraminer is nice with Swiss cheese, Rieslings are great with Gouda and smoked Gouda, and Sauvignon Blancs pair nicely with goat cheese. Rich, stimulating cheeses are best paired with sweet wines, the sweetness being matched by the “bite” of the cheese. For example, Stilton and Roquefort cheeses go well with Sauternes. Hard and mildly-flavored cheeses pair well with most red wines. Sharp Cheddars pair well with Cabs, Asagio, Parmesan, and Gorgonzola are nice with Amarone. As a final observation, exceptionally sweet and fruity white wines (mostly dessert wines) pair well with almost any cheese. This is because they overtake the fat found in cheese and thus allow you to still easily taste the wine.

Whenever a celebration calls for wine and cheese, use these suggestions to help you bring together two that are complementary. (A personal favorite of mine is Shiraz with Extra Sharp Cheddar.) So go ahead! Pour some wine, slice some cheese, and enjoy!

Wine Baskets Make Great Wine Gifts

December 15th, 2010 2 comments

Wine baskets are wonderful gifts that everyone loves.  As a result, they can cost hundreds of dollars at fancy food stores.  But why spend the cash when you can easily make them yourself?  They’re simple to create, and they make great, personal gifts that your friends and family will really appreciate.  You can fill your wine gift baskets with almost anything, so get creative: the possibilities are endless!

To start, you need some kind of attractive basket or box.  Visit your local craft store for wicker baskets or large tin pails.  Wooden wine cases also make great receptacles. For a unique container that’s a gift in itself, use a leather brigade bucket by Mulholland Leather.

Then pick a wine theme and get to filling!  Here are some ideas:

A chocolate-themed gift basket. Visit a chocolate store and pick out a variety: white, milk, and dark chocolates all pair well with wines.  If you know the person’s favorites, play to them.  You can even try some unusual chocolates: they may include goat cheese, herbs, or even chilies.  Next, pair some wines with the chocolates you’ve chosen.  For a dark chocolate lover, strong, rich reds like Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon are perfect.  For the milk chocolate lover, try something smooth like a Pinot Noir or something sweet like a Muscat.  White chocolate pairs well with sweet wines like Muscatos or even something darker and tannic for contrast, like a Merlot.  For our full wine and chocolate pairing guide, click here.

A summer-themed gift basket: Line a basket with a checkered picnic cloth, then fill with beautiful summer fruits, like strawberries and peaches.  Add some goats-milk cheese (it’s at its peak in the summer) and some crackers or a baguette.  Finish with summer wines like Rosé or Pinot Grigio.

A gift basket for the new wine lover: If you know someone in your life who’s just starting to appreciate the pleasures of wine, help them out!  Fill a basket with a few bottles of your favorites.  Try to think outside the box and introduce the person to some types of wine he or she might not have heard of.

A wine and cheese basket: This one’s a crowd-pleaser.  Pairing wine and cheese can be intimidating, so see our easy wine & cheese pairing guide for help.  In general, stick to white wines and pick a variety of cheeses (like brie, gruyere, and cheddar).  Include a few different types of crackers, a bunch of grapes, and you’re ready to go.

A wine game gift basket: Give everything they need to have their own wine-tasting party.  Include several types of wine, or a a few bottles of the same type at different price point.  Place bags over the bottles or cover the labels, and add paper for note-taking.  Maybe they’ll even invite you over to play!

Interested in our recommendations for wine lover gift ideas?

3 More Wine Apps for iPhone

November 26th, 2010 2 comments

Since we got such a great response to our original 3 iPhone Apps for Wine Lovers post, we thought we’d give you iPhone-wielding wine lovers three new reasons to shop for apps.  Here’s what’s new and cool:

Cor.kz Wine Info: If you’re feature-happy, this is the app for you.  It allows you to scan the barcode available on most bottles, then searches its wine database–which is nearly a million strong, by the way–to track down the bottle you’re considering.  You can read reviews, make notes, and even compare similar bottles side-by-side.  Cor.kz has got choosing a bottle of wine down to a science.  Price: $3.99

Fromage: Fromage is to vinophiles like, well, cheese is to wine.  Cheese is probably the world’s most popular snack to accompany your favorite beverage, but pairing wines and cheeses is notoriously difficult.  Enter Fromage.  This simple app has a database of over 650 cheeses, and for each, it gives a flavor profile and offers wine pairing suggestions.  Your cheese platter choices just got easy.  Price: $2.99

Wine Wherever: This is the perfect app for the traveling wine lover.  With a tap of your iPhone screen, you can get a complete listing of all the wineries in your area.  So next time you’re in Oregon, California, New York, or even Texas, check out Wine Wherever and imbibe of the best local beverages.  Price: $2.99 per regional map.

Know of a great wine app (for any platform–see our previous posts for Android and Blackberry) that we haven’t covered yet? Tell us about it in the comments!

Tips for Wine and Cheese Pairings

December 5th, 2009 No comments

As the holiday season draws nearer, we find ourselves meeting friends and family to drink, be merry, and forget how much money we’re spending on Christmas presents.  Whether you’re hosting a party or attending one, it’s a good bet that sometime this month you’ll be faced with that eternal challenge: the wine and cheese pairing.   A wine and cheese pairing can be a perfect gift for the host or a great way to start off your own party, but a good one takes planning.  Here are a few tips for doing one right:

1.  Don’t be intimidated.  Matching wine and cheese perfectly isn’t easy; even the experts disagree on what tastes good with what.  Rather than second-guessing yourself and adding to your holiday stress, just remember this: if it tastes good to you, it probably tastes good to your friends too.

2.  White wines are safer than reds.  White wine pair well with soft cheeses and stronger flavors.  Many cheese, especially the soft, creamy (and I might add, delicious) kind, contains fats that interfere with the flavors of red wine, making them seem to lose their deeper flavors.

3.  If you do want to go for a red (and don’t be afraid to!), stick to the hard, milder cheeses like swiss.

4.  Sweeter wines, dessert wines, and champagnes generally fair well with a wide range of cheeses.  The carbonation in champagne actually helps break down the fat from soft, creamy cheeses, and the mild flavor prevents it from interfering with the taste of most cheeses.  If you’re bringing wine to a wine and cheese party, champagne or sweeter wines like Gewürztraminer might be your best bets.

5.  If your harbor a love for the soft and stinky varieties of cheese (I know I do), pick big, bold wines to back them up.  Cabs and Bordeaux have flavors that can handle strong cheeses.  If you’re looking at a Bleu or other moldy or blue veined cheese, a sweet dessert wine is your best bet.

Good luck with your wine and cheese pairings!  Remember that food is supposed to be fun and pleasurable: don’t let picking a wine and cheese pair add to your holiday stress.

Wine and Cheese: Why and How

September 9th, 2009 No comments

Look in your wine cellar or your wine cabinet and pick out a wine…  Read this wine blog and then go to the local market and pick out a cheese.  Enjoy your evening…  I wanted to revisit the classic pairing of wine and cheese to see why it’s so popular and offer a few tips.

Consider the things that these two great tastes have in common:

  • Both date back to ancient times (Wine 10,000 years – Cheese 4,000 years).
  • Both are a product of fermentation and most producers maintain high quality standards and appellations.
  • Both are a reflection of their “terroir”, a French word that is the collective term for the conditions of climate, soil, altitude, topography. Grapes grow in the same area that grows the feed for the cows, sheep and goats that produce the milk that makes the cheese.
  • Both are alive and will continually change as they age.

It’s a matter of chemistry. Almost all wine is highly acidic and it’s the acidic taste that makes your mouth water and creates that burst of saliva and its enzymes, which help boost the flavor of food. Tannin, which is the astringent substance in the skins, stems and seed of grapes and in oak barrels, gives red wine its body and texture and allows wine to develop more complex flavor over time. However, protein (like a well-grilled steak or a wedge of cheese) can smooth tannin’s impact on the tongue, which is why wine and cheese or red wine and steak are such classic combinations. The protein and fats in the cheese or beef coat your tongue and mellow the tannic taste and the tannin keeps the cheese or beef from tasting greasy and heavy.

Today, more specialty wine shops are adding an artisan cheese section (usually next to the wine cellar with their high end wine selection).  Since good wines and good cheeses are more readily available, keep this in mind: Sweeter wine with saltier cheese. Creamy cheese will taste better with a wine with higher acidity. Other general guidelines include:

  • The harder the cheese, the higher level of tannin a wine can have.
  • The whiter and fresher the cheese, the crisper and fruitier the wine.
  • Heavy rich cheeses will partner with light reds and Chardonnay.
  • Strong veined cheeses usually demand a sweeter wine.

Set up your next wine tasting party with a few more exotic or artisan cheeses.  Pair your wine and cheese following some of these simple tips.  Enjoy…

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