After centuries of cheese and wine finding themselves the best of friends, pairing cheese with wine is practically built into our very DNA.
Ideal Spring Wines For Pairing with Cheese
When conjuring up a big, broad scope of visions for bountiful spring spreads of cheese, wine and accompaniments, a focus on white wines definitely emerges – as gorgeous vintages representing rosé, sparkling and all manner of whites jump to mind. Not that reds do not have a prime seat at this table! If white wines are the ‘Soul-Mate’ to fine artisan cheese, think of red wines as cheese’s ‘Twin Flame’ – always engaged in a dance with duality. However, note that many sommeliers in spring-mode suggest that the heavier the tannins and oakiness, the more challenging pairing a red wine will be. Generally, lighter bodied reds such as Pinot Noir come together effortlessly with the riches of springtime.
With the spring harvest bringing in fresh spring produce, wines with pleasant acidity and that not-quite-ripe ‘green’ quality are a great place to start (think all things sparkling and crisp Rieslings for sure-fire bets). To be clear, the number one top-secret in our back pocket: bubbles, ideally crisp over cloying, can take you from brie to blue without a single set-change.
Setting the Stage: Cheese & Wine Logistics
Did you know that Antonelli’s makes an ongoing investment in the family by encouraging employee certification through the American Cheese Society as Certified Cheese Professionals (CCP)? That’s right, your friendly cheesemonger just might be an internationally recognized cheese expert. We’re not saying you have to be a ‘cheese sommelier’ to master wine & cheese pairing – just know you’re in very good hands! A little of our crafty guidance, plus your own instincts, will go far towards creating perfect pairings.
When we are masterminding menus for our Events program – which serves groups large & small across Central Texas in our turn-of-the-century Cheese House, on Bus Tours throughout the Hill Country or anywhere our esteemed clients need us – we invoke our sense of “Pairing Theory” to guide us to the most dynamic menus we can create.
Consider notions such as “Fire with Fire,” “Like with Like,” “Opposites Attract,” or conceptually-themed pairings (for example a region-specific riesling with an Alpine cheese). With wine in particular, think about the intensity level of the cheese. Does it possess a similar ‘amplitude’ as the wine you’re considering? A beautifully balanced dance is the goal, so make sure the partners have qualities that compliment each other.
Timing & temperature are also factors to consider while pacing the service – you do want to hit the serving temperatures correctly. For cheese & charcuterie meats, make sure they have achieved room-tempurature by leaving your board out to ‘breathe’ for between 30 to 60 minutes, fully releasing the enticing aromas and actualizing their depths of flavor. While the typical refrigerator hangs out at under 40 degrees, you’ll want your white wines to come closer to 50-55 degrees in order to experience their full range. Regarding reds, with their target temperature range of 55-65 degrees, ‘room temp.’ may be a bit too warm – don’t hesitate to pop them in the cooler to place a chill on your reds for an ideal bouquet!
Cheese Pairing Theory Meets Wine
The true ‘Cliff’s Notes' here is that wine high in acidity acts as a natural palate-cleanser, so crisp sparkling wines, many viogniers & rieslings – as well as some lighter-bodied reds – may adapt seamlessly over a course of multiple & varied cheeses.
Having said that, we at Antonelli’s believe we get the most mileage out of our palates by starting with young, milder cheeses that open up majestically with a bottle of bubbles. Moving into more pungent bloomy rinds (like camembert) and washed rinds is a fantastic time to introduce a choice white or rosé, while the semi-soft/firm/hard trinity opens arms wide for lighter reds like Pinot Noir. For the die-hard big, bold red lovers, unveiling your jammy red with a hard cheese like a Sardinian Pecorino will carry you through to what is always our final course: the blue cheese.
In any case, join us for this deeper dive, and check out our ‘cheat sheet’ below to gain all of the confidence you’ll need to follow your instincts for pairing boldly and expertly:
Pleasantly elevated acidity joins forces with bubbly effervescence for an often universal cheese accompaniment. Try it with:
- Fresh Cheeses (A match made in cheese heaven with Chèvre, Hand-dipped Ricotta, fresh sheep cheese)
- Brie-style cheese (Spectacular fireworks with Kunik, Brie de Meaux, Cana de Oveja)
- Washed Rinds (Savor & refresh with Quadrello, Red Hawk, Epoisses)
- And keep going, all the way through hard & blue cheeses! When you’ve found your sparkling ‘holy grail,’ it will make each cheese sing.
Higher acidity and a full-spectrum of brightness make this a highly versatile selection. Introduce it to:
- Ossau-Iraty (Sheep milk Basque country cheese); Chabrin (Goat milk Basque country cheese)
- Goat-Milk Goudas (Brabander, Central Coast Creamery Goat Gouda)
- SarVecchio (America’s premier Parmigiano-Reggiano inspiration)
Usually higher in acidity, and wide-ranging flavor notes can include mineral, grass and grapefruit sensations. Plays well with:
- Flavored Chèvres (June’s Joy, CKC Jalapeno Artichoke)
- Milder Cheddar-Style Cheeses (Seascape, Redneck Cheddar, Montgomery’s)
- Cow or Sheep milk Goudas (L’Amuse, Ewephoria, Marieke)
- Salty Hard Cheeses (Dry Jack, Parmigiano-Reggiano)
Dry Riesling & Viognier
These wines are similar in aromatics (Viogner would be the more mature sibling of the two), with a crisp & dry bite and high acidity. Complement them with umami-heavy cheeses like:
- Alpine style cheeses (Challerhocher, Gruyere, Comte)
- Sheep milk Feta
- ‘Spiced’ Brie (Rougette, Piper’s Pyramide)
- Marinated Bufaletta Tuscan
Key terms like ‘Buttery’ & ‘Oak-y’ set the bar high, although this is one of the most popular choices for Americans. We suggest steering into the curve with:
- Camembert (Take ‘buttery’ to the next level: Bent River, Le Pommier, Fermier)
- Caldera Espana (Texas made, Spanish at heart – Smoked over pecan shells. Serve with ‘oaked.’)
- Appalachian, Mt. Tam (for buttery vibes)
Citric zest & dark red fruits, spring blooms, and impressions of ‘green’ all contribute to the mystique of Rosé. Select for brightness over sweetness to get in the zone for:
- Brie! Brie! Brie! (This is the perfect moment for precious triple cremes: Kunik, Marin French, Champlain)
- Fresh Mozzarella
- Tomme style cheeses (Thomasville, Crayeuse, Fat-Tailed Tomme)
Dark-red fruit notes, tannic acidity and herbal-to-woodsy notes work well with stronger cheeses for this full-bodied varietal. Schedule a play-date with mild to moderate cheeses:
- Aged Cheddar (Widmer’s 10-Year)
- Classic Blues (Gorgonzola Dolce, Roquefort)
- Milder, Firmer Cheeses (Gouda, Jack, 1605 Manchego)
With a dynamic balance between earth and fruit (read: tobacco meets berries with a hint of fig), pick up on a Spanish theme, and you cannot go wrong here! Bienvenida:
- Manchego Styles (La Dama Sagrada, Campo de Montalban, 1605)
- Brie-adjacent (Leonora, Leonora a Fuego, Cana de Oveja)
- Resurrected from an ancient recipe (Garrotxa)
Mourvèdre, a sun-drenched & savory French varietal, reflects dark-red fruits, berry-bearing vines, and balanced vanilla & chocolate notes. Meet Mourvèdre with:
- Smoke-suggestive cheeses (Caldera Espana, Smoked Ricotta, Smokey Blue)
- Milder Alpines (Gruyere, Comte)
- Hard Cheeses (Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino, Grana Padano)
The terroir of Burgundy: earthy, floral, effortlessly enchanting. High acidity and lower tannins make Pinot Noir an ideal Spring red. Choose things delicate:
- Alpines (Berglialp, Challerhocker, Comté)
- Spruce-wrapped, ‘epicurean queso’ (Harbison, Vacherin)
- Brie Recipes (Such as Baked Brie)
Merlot is always in fashion, with its berry & purple-fruit flavors. Supple tannins give way to a fruity finish that hints at chocolate. Keep it moderate for a sure-bet:
- Gouda (L’Amuse, Ewephoria, Brabander)
- Pungent Brie-styles (Camemebert, Kunik, Trillium)
Smooth & jammy with notes of dark cherry, purple-fruits and raisin. Hints of coffee & chocolate with a waft of black pepper signal that this wine can stand up well to bold-leaning cheeses:
- Manchego Styles (La Dama Sagrada, Campo de Montalban, 1605)
- Taleggio-Style (Quadrello, Ciresa Taleggio DOP)
- Camemberts (Bent River, Le Pommier, Fermier)