One of the most casual yet pleasurable social activities involves cheese and wine. It's a classic pairing that always delights. Although it can be quick and easy to organize, the choice of the proper bottle of wine can slow you down. Red could be the first temptation to pair with cheese, but there is no question that white in general is a much better partner. White?! Quelle surprise you might say! But why?
In general, cheeses tend to be high in both acid and salt. Rule number one, you need to pick a wine that is equally high in acid. With some exceptions of course, whites tend to be higher in acid then reds. There is nothing better than a tangy goat cheese like the French Crottin de Chavignol with a zesty Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé. To experiment with Made in Canada products, seek Québec Le Cendrillon or BC Salt Spring Island goat cheese and sip Perseus Sauvignon Blanc or Haywire Pinot Gris.
The other tricky component in cheese is salt. In the kitchen, salt is added to enhance the flavours of a dish. If you have a cheese that is high in salt, it will no doubt accentuate the tannins of a red wine. It does not mean that you cannot have red with with cheese. Choosing a red with high acid and light soft tannins is key. Gamay, Pinot Noir, Valpolicella, Beaujolais and red Burgundy are good options. For those who prefer a fuller red, hard cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano will work like a charm with richer Amarone. In my own backyard, Chardonnay is my favourite match with Louis d’Or but 13th Street Winery's Gamay is a good compromise.
Salt also works well with sweet. Just think about how delicious melon is when paired with prosciutto. The same principle goes for salty blue cheeses. Port, Sauternes, Tokaji Aszu and sweet late harvest wines work like magic with a Stilton or Roquefort. Québec Bleu d'Élizabeth is to die for, enjoy it with a sip of Tawse Riesling Ice Wine.
In love with strong, washed rind cheeses? Go for a wine with personality. Gewürztraminer and Munster from Alsace is a classic match. At home, I like to explore with Québec 14 Arpents and Viognier from Laughing Stock Vineyards.
Michelle Bouffard is a wine educator and journalist who splits her time between Montréal & Vancouver. She co-owns the Vancouver-based company ‘house wine’ and is the president of the BC Chapter of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers. She Tweets @michellebwine and Instagrams @michellebouffard.