Wines and cheeses have a lot in common. To start with, they are both fermented liquids. Wine, as we know, is fermented grape juice. Cheese is fermented milk. Like wine, cheeses come with an array of flavors, textures, and characteristics. A general guideline for constructing great food and wine pairing involves pairing “like with like”. What does this mean, you wonder? It means, if you have a citrusy, minerally, high-acid cheese, like a soft goat cheese from the Loire Valley, pair it with a citrusy, minerally, high-acid white wine – like Sancerre. If you have a nutty, minerally, butterscotch-y cheese, like aged Gruyere, pair it will a nutty, minerally, butterscotch-y wine, with the same level of complexity, like a older Savenièrres.
Another rule of thumb is to avoid pairing red wines with blue cheese, unless the wine has some sweetness to it. Otherwise both your wine, and your cheese, will taste metallic. Even though Port with Blue Cheese is known as a classic pairing – it isn’t necessarily the best pairing. Next time you order a plate of Roquefort, try it instead with a glass of Sauternes.
On a related note, sweetness reduces saltiness, bitterness, and acidity. Wines that tend to have a touch of sweetness – whether it’s a very ripe Pinot Noir, a ripe Rioja, or fruit Beaujolais – marry well with a highly salty, bitter, or high-acid cheese. The counter-point is also true; particularly sweet, creamy cheeses – like a triple crème Brillat-Savarin, are delicious with a higher-tannin, slightly bitter wine like a Cabernet or a Merlot.