Wine + Cheese

Now that you’ve gotten through all the wine tastings and vineyard tours that have been all the rage throughout the past few years, are you ready to take your new love of wine to the next level?

By now, you probably have determined which wines are your favorites, which are not and those that you might be on the fence with. This is the perfect time for you to enter into the world of wine and food pairing.

Wine and food pairing is the art of combining food dishes with wine to enhance the dining experience. European cultures have a history of making wine a staple at the dinner table to the point that many have evolved their regional culinary traditions together with their wines. You can make meals more than just re-fueling stations at your home, but rather enhancements to daily life or special events.

Before trying to create wine pairing culinary masterpieces in your kitchen, find a restaurant or winery that offers wine and food pairing luncheons or dinners and treat yourself to experiencing it first-hand from a professional venue.

While the cost might be a little higher in price, the experience is worth it. The servers for these events are well-versed on the wines and openly discuss what’s being served as part of their customer service, so you’re getting an education, fun and value added component to the dining experience.

Before you venture on this new journey, kick out the old notion that “red with red meat and white with fish.” In reality, red wine typically pairs well with red meat because it is higher in tannins. Tannins can feel drying, but they are a good compliment to the rich fattiness that can be found in red meat.

White wine, for chicken or fish, is good because it has a little higher acidity, so you’ll find yourself holding back on that squirt of lemon juice, as the wine will take its place. However, these days, the bottom line is to eat and drink what you like, and it won’t take you long to figure out what that is.

If you’re wanting to experiment, here are a few guidelines to get you started:

Pinot Noir: Great for dishes with earthy flavors.

Chardonnay: For fatty fish or fish in a rich sauce.

Champagne: Perfect with anything salty.

Cabernet Sauvignon: Fabulous with juicy red meat.

Sauvignon Blanc: Goes well with tart dressings and sauces.

Rosé: For rich, cheesy dishes (and grilled cheese).

Pinot Grigio: Pairs with light fish dishes.

Moscato: Loves everything fruit, especially desserts.

Want to lighten things up a bit? As appetizers or light fare go, what could be better than the basic wine and cheese combinations we all enjoy? The rule of thumb on pairing wine with cheese is “the darker the cheese, the redder the wine.”

For example, a nice Cabernet pairs well with aged Gouda or sharp cheddar, Merlot with Monterrey Jack, Malbec with aged cheddar, Chardonnay with mild cheddar or Colby Jack and Riesling with spicy and powerful cheeses.

Half of the fun of this wine pairing journey will be getting there, and the journey can be endless. So, open your mind and your palette and enjoy a tasteful ride.

Barbara Sue Schubert is the human resources administrator for the Shullsburg (Wis.) Creamery. She also has an extensive background in wine from her previous position as the vineyard and marketing manager at Galena (Ill.) Cellars Vineyard & Winery.

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