WORDS: Kris Lloyd, Cheese Maker, Woodside Cheese Wrights
I’m sure if you ask anyone, anywhere in the world, to recommend the perfect match for cheese, they will tell you – wine.
I like to think I have a moderate palate for cheese, and courtesy of a wine making family, I have tried a few wines in my time and I can say with absolute confidence that a glass of white or red is not cheese’s only best friend.
From my own experience, the strong flavours of red wine wipe out the delicate flavours of many cheeses. On the other hand, many white wines can boast high acidity, which interferes with the natural acids that occur particularly in goat cheese.
Further, you have to take into account the different styles of cheese – white mould, fresh, blue, hard, soft – there is no one perfect wine for all of them and while white beats out red when it comes to versatility…
Bubbles take the cake.
That’s right, in all my years of trying and testing; I enjoyed cheese most when accompanied with a crisp flute of champagne. And maybe some dried fruit. Throw in some crackers too.
I find the high fat content in cheese can often leave your mouth with an almost ‘sticky’ feeling. This is where the carbonation of the sparkling comes into play, creating a dialogue with that cheesy residue that wipes your palate clean. It leaves you wanting more cheese, which makes you want more bubbles… A slippery slope I know but nonetheless a rather enjoyable one.
In general, a good sparkling wine is slightly more aromatic and yeasty with only a crisp, momentary bite of acidity in the mouth. While they can vary toward a more full-bodied and lush taste, there is a level of crispness and intensity always present, courtesy of the hundreds and thousands of tiny bubbles, which is why I believe it complements cheese the best.
Lighter, brighter sparkling wines and Champagne pair well with creamy cheeses that have high butterfat content. Test it out with a double or triple cream Brie and you will be able to feel the bubbles cut through the mouth-coating richness. If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, try our Patrice (a super smooth rich and buttery cheese) paired with a yeasty sparkling, some fresh strawberries and I assure you it will blow your mind.
If you are more partial to a full bodied sparkling then try traditional Champagne that has undergone a secondary ferment in the bottle. That time spent delivers complexity and toasty, bready notes that work well with slightly more pungent cheeses, try washed rinds with this you’ll find the Champagne echoes the splendid nutty notes found in these cheeses.
And let’s not forget Prosecco! The Italian speciality that has undergone a secondary fermentation. Prosecco tends to be dryer than other sparkling wines working brilliantly with Chevre (goat cheese) of all forms as it collects and lifts the sweetness in the cheese. Whether the cheese is rinded or fresh, the acid development in the cheese is truly complimented by the yeasty nature of the wine.
A great bubble does not need to cost you the earth. Look beyond Champagne and you will discover a host of well made options including many produced in Australia.
Of course, this is no reason to upend your wine cellar and throw out all your beautiful whites, reds and rosés – you may prefer to enjoy your cheese with these wines, which is absolutely fine. But it would be remiss of me to not bring to your attention to the wonder that is sparkling wine and cheese that you may have not attempted. And I haven’t even visited gin, beer and cider with cheese…next time!
So, here’s cheers!