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Cheese and Wine: how to find the perfect combination?

This article is kindly reprinted from THE WEEK, 20 July, 2002.

Choosing the right wine to go with cheese can be a tricky business, says Fiona Beckett in The Times. Red wine is not always best, as anyone who's ever choked down some bordeaux after a mouthful of roquefort will attest. In fact many cheeses taste better with white or sweet wine. Patricia Michelson, owner of specialist shop La Fromagerie, knows how to get the most out of a cheese course. Here are some of her tips:

·         Don't overcrowd your cheeseboard: two or three cheeses will be easier to match with wine than five or six.

·         Don't muddle your regions. Drinks and cheeses from a particular area usually go well together: chablis with chaource, say, or Normandy cider with camembert.

·         Start with the easiest cheeses to match: goat's cheese and hard sheep's cheeses. The hardest to match are stinky (well-matured) washed-rind cheeses (epoisse and munster) and strong blues.

·         Choose wines that are easy to match, such as young, fruity reds with lively acidity. Avoid very oaky or tannic wines.

·         Serve cheese at room temperature. But don't let it get too runny.

·         If a cheese proves really difficult to match, try taking the rind off.

Matches made in heaven

It's not all hard work. Sometimes cheese and wine can be a match made in heaven. Here are some winning pairs:


·         Strong blue and salty cheeses go best with sweet wine. Try roquefort with sauternes. Hungarian tokaji is fabulous with stilton or the Irish cashel blue.

·         Port, madeira, amontillado and oloroso sherries also go well with hard-to-match blue or strong hard cheeses, but can overpower creamy ones.

·        Champagne works well with aged parmesan and camembert.

·        Aromatic whites can be difficult but try gewürztraminer with sariette de banon (a herby goat's cheese from Provence) or munster.

·        Young fruity reds like beaujolais, cotes du rhone, lighter burgundies and lighter Italian reds like valpolicella or dolcetto go well with goat's cheese, brie and camembert, as well as milder washed-rind and semi-soft mountain cheeses.

·        Bordeaux, cabernet sauvignons, chianti and young rioja go best with nutty cheeses like gouda, parmesan, mature cheddar or a hard sheep's cheese like pecorino. Avoid blue or washed-rind cheeses.

·        Australian shiraz and Californian zinfandel can stand up to some blue or washed-rind cheeses, if the wine's not too oaky. Try zinfandel with the mildish French cheese bleu de gex.

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