Cheese is a serious subject.
There’s actual cheese etiquette in France, which must be adhered to (NEVER cut the nose off a wedge!). The timing of when you serve your cheese (before, or after the dessert?) is equally a very contentious issue.
The next serious consideration is what to serve alongside it…
Of course, the classic pairing for a cheese board is Port, and it’s true that nothing really stands up to Stilton quite as fabulously. However Stilton is just one example of cheese, and the flavours of more delicate, young cheeses can be lost in amongst Port’s more powerful, and robust flavour profile.
Here are a few wines I’d recommend for when you are considering the minefield that is cheese and wine pairing:
I know what you’re thinking: “White wine with cheese?!” Yes, really. A fruity white wine such as Viognier is very versatile. It works with well with lots of hard cheeses such as sharp cheddar, but also has the ability to work well with softer, creamy cheeses too.
The freshness of Sauvignon is the perfect match for goat’s cheese, especially the younger, fresh examples. It’s great with with melted cheese dishes too such as raclette and fondue, really cutting through the richness of them.
As you might imagine, Port is a great partner for strong flavoured cheeses. Stilton is the classic match, but other intensely flavoured blue cheeses work very well too.
If you prefer dry red wines with your cheese, then Bordeaux, or other Cabernet Sauvignon based wines are a good alternative. They have enough structure, as well as aromatic intensity, to pair up to the likes of strong blues, and hard cheeses such as sharp cheddar.
The best all-rounder
Rivesaltes Ambre is a wine that not everyone will have come across before, but this is by far the most versatile and my personal winner every time. It’s a sweet, fortified wine from southern France, with flavours of toffee, dried fruits and nuts. From salty, to strong, to fresh, to creamy, to nutty… I haven’t yet found a cheese which doesn’t work with this wine. It’s also great with the sweet pastes and jellies that are frequently served alongside cheese.
Almost as good, and more readily accessible, is tawny port. It has a very similar flavour profile to the Rivesaltes Ambre, but sometimes I find the high alcohol content can be a bit too much for some cheeses, hence why the Ambre just pipped it to the post!
Next time you’re having a cheese board why not plump for something a little different…