Classic Wine and Cheese Pairing – Dessert Wine

Classic Wine and Cheese Pairing – Dessert Wine
Keep in mind, these tips are from my own experience, I’m not a party organizer nor am I a sommelier or a turophile (a cheese connoisseur). I just love cheese, wine and spending time with my friends.

Looking for the perfect match? A good wine and a good cheese can enhance the flavours and complexities of each other. Select a wine that complements the flavours in your favourite cheese.

If you have a special bottle, pick a cheese to match.

Don’t know which cheese to buy?

You can bet there’s a wine out there for every cheese. In general, white wine tends to work better with cheese, as the high acidity of the wine breaks down the fat. However, there are red wines that can work well with mature cheeses.

You’ll notice some pairings repeat so you can mix and match with ease for your next party.

There are numerous studies finding the strong flavour of cheese accentuates the dominant flavours in wine. Interestingly, researches show your wine palate becomes more sensitive when combining cheese and wine so you will be able to detect more lovely flavours in the wine.

But in order to get this heightened taste sensation, you need to pair the two right.

Here is my guide to pairing the perfect cheese with your delicious wine with the most popular wines and cheeses pairings!

  • Off-Dry Wines pair well with Spicy Cheeses
  • Light Bodied Wines pair well with Light Cheeses
  • Full Bodied Wines pair well with Heavier Cheeses

Dessert Wine

Serve reds at room temperature, or slightly chilled (“Cellar Temp”) (55–68 ºF / 13–20 ºC)
Serve whites chilled (41–45 ºF / 5–7 ºC)
Store open 28 days* (in cool, dark place)

A dessert wine is first of all a wine that has such a high sweetness that it can accompany a sweet dessert. One of the most important principles for the harmony of food and wine is that the meal should never be sweeter than wine. In other words, the wine must be at least as sweet as the food. If you were to drink a non-sweet, “dry” wine while having a sweet dessert, the wine would have a very sour note.

These wines are also a great match with saltier foods (think Blue Cheese). Strong Blue cheese shake it up with a salty/sweet combo.

Cheese Pairings:

  • Strong Blue cheese
  • Bleu des Basques Brebis
  • Bleu de Sassenage
  • Cashel Blue
  • Crème Fraiche
  • Aged/Firm Cheddar
  • Fourme d’Ambert

Luscious Wines with Residual Sweetness


Off Dry Riesling

AKA: Riesling – Johannisberger Riesling – Rhine Riesling – White Riesling -Riesling Renano (Italy)

Serve whites chilled (47ºF/8ºC)

Sweet wines range from off-dry (Kabinett and Spatlese) with a small but perceptible amount of sugar and fresh, delicate fruit flavours, to late-harvested versions (Auslese) with more concentration, richer fruit flavours, and a broader mouthfeel, to fully botrytized wines (Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese) with lusciously-sweet, orange blossom-like, honeyed richness. Additionally, the category of Eiswein (ice wine), made from grapes frozen on vines, has as much sugar as botrytized Rieslings but with cleaner fruit flavours.

Austria also makes Riesling using its version of the Pradikat system, and Canada is actually producing some delicious ice wine Riesling as well. All these Rieslings tend to be fairly low in alcohol, with the sweetest wines being in the single-digits of alcohol percentage and the double-digits of years to age.

Cheese Pairings:

off dry:

  • Brick
  • Colby
  • Double Glouster
  • Edam
  • Fontina
  • Gorgonzola
  • Gouda
  • Gruyère
  • Havarti
  • Langres
  • Vermont Shepard
sweet:

  • any rich cheese
  • blue cheeses
  • “cheese cake”

Characteristics:

Body Acidity Sweetness Tannins
off dry medium perceived as medium slightly sweet low
late harvest full perceived as low sweet low

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Fortified Wines Sweet and Plush

Fortified wines are made by adding grape spirit (brandy) to a wine either during or after fermentation, depending on whether the winemaker desires the finished wine to be dry or sweet. The addition of alcohol stops fermentation by killing the yeast, leaving behind residual, unfermented sugar from the grapes. The result is a sweet wine with an alcohol content of 15 to 20 percent. Therefore, the sweeter the wine, the lower the alcohol content and vice versa.

If a wine is fortified before fermentation is finished, the wine will be sweet, as there will still be sugar left in the wine itself, whereas a wine that is fortified after fermentation will be dry.


Madeira

AKA: Rainwater – Sercial – Verdelho – Bual (Boal) – Malmsey Madiera

Madeira, a fortified wine from the Portuguese island of Madeira is delicious with sheep milk – brebis cheese, particularly full-fat firm styles such as Cabrales, Etorki. The smoky, toffee, tangy nuttiness and fruit-cake aromas and flavours of Madeira as well as its high acidity both cut through the richness of these cheeses and enhances the tangy sheep milk flavours.

Cheese Pairings:

Rainwater, Sercial and Verdelho

  • Boursin herbed
  • Brick
  • Derby
  • Feta
  • goat cheese
  • Gouda
  • Havarti
  • Majorero (Spanish hard goat cheese)
  • Mahon
  • Bucheron (French goat cheese)
  • dry Jack cheese
  • Cream cheese
  • Neufchâtel
  • Saint -Felicien (French cow;s milk cheese)
  • Raclette
  • Pave Affinois
Bual

Malmsey

  • Blue Cheese
  • Stilton
  • nutty flavoured cheeses such as Gruyere
  • Emmenthal
  • Swiss
  • Fontal
  • Maasdam

Characteristics:

Body Acidity Sweetness Tannins
Sercial light high dry low
Rainwater medium high off dry low
Verdelho medium high off dry low
Bual medium medium semi-sweet low
Malmsey full medium sweet medium

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Port

AKA: Vinho do Porto – Tawny Port – Vintage Port – Ruby Port – White Port – Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) Port – Colheita Port

Serve Vintage Port at (66 ºF / 19 ºC)
Serve Tawny/NV Port at (57 ºF / 14 ºC)

Notes: Different Styles: Ruby / Vintage and Tawny.

Tawny is aged in neutral oak barrels for a set period of time before bottling. Tawny port can be aged for up to 40 years.

Ruby port, on the other hand, is aged in steel or concrete tanks that are specifically designed to prevent oxygen from affecting the port. Ruby port is aged for a much shorter period of time than tawny port – generally not more than three or four years.

Port’s sweetness and thick body are the perfect foil for pungent, crumbly bleu cheese, like stilton. The older the port is, the sweeter it is because the tannins have become soft over time and the acidity has decreased.

Because of this, blue cheeses work well with it. Port’s sweetness and thick body are the perfect foil for pungent, crumbly bleu cheese. The older the vintage port is, the stronger and smellier the blue cheese can be.

You might rightly point out that Port is a red wine and has long been considered the ideal wine with Stilton, an English blue veined cheese. The reason that Port pairs so well with blue cheese is because it is sweet and fortified. It is not because it is red. The sweetness provides a perfect foil for the tangy saltiness of blue cheese.

Cheese Pairings:

Tawny ports

  • nutty flavoured cheeses such as Gruyere
  • Emmenthal
  • Swiss
  • Fontal
  • Maasdam
  • Strong Blue Cheeses
  • soft washed rind cheeses
  • Taleggio
Vintage Ports

  • Blue Cheese
  • Stilton
  • Brie
  • Camembert
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Pecorino
  • Gorgonzola
  • Grana Padano
  • Roquefort
Ruby Ports

  • Mild and medium sharp Cheddar
  • Cambozola
  • Manchego
  • Murcia al Vino
  • Mahon
  • Fourme D’Ambert
White Ports

Characteristics:

Body Acidity Sweetness Tannins
Tawny full perceived low semi-sweet medium
Vintage full perceived low semi-sweet medium
Ruby full perceived low medium medium
White full medium sweet low to medium

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Sauternes/Sauternais

AKA: Barsac – Cérons – Sainte-Croix-du-Mont – Cadillac – Loupiac – Premières Côtes de Bordeaux – Côtes de Bordeaux Saint-Macaire

Serve at (42-50 ºF / 6-10 ºC)

Sauternes is a sweet white wine made in the Sauternais region of France. Sauternes wine is made from a blend of Semillon, Sauvignon blanc, and Muscadelle grapes. Due to the unusual climate of the area, the grapes are affected by a fungus known as ‘noble rot’ which causes the flavours and sugars in the grapes to become more concentrated. Sauternes wines are thick and sweet, with apricot, peach and floral flavours.

Expect Sauternes to exhibit intense notes of honeyed apricot, butterscotch, caramel, coconut, mango, ginger, marmalade, and citrus themes, along with tropical fruit, honeysuckle, and toasted baking spices. By the way, Sauternes qualifies as a very sweet wine, with anywhere from 120–220 g/L of residual sugar (for comparison’s sake, coke has 113 g/L).

Excellent served with wash-rind soft cheeses where the sweetness in the wine counteracts the “funk” of the cheese.

The most classic pairing is Roquefort. Sauternes really shines alongside something more savoury such as Roquefort or Livarot cheese and foie gras or terrine with caramelized onions. A savoury pairing will highlight the wine while creating a beautiful balance on your tongue.

Also pair it with soft cheese like Brie and rich, tender veal.

The richness of fondue is a match made in heaven for decadent dessert wine Sauternes.

Cheese Pairings:

  • Brie
  • Blue cheese
  • Livarot
  • Roquefort
  • Fondue
  • Washed-rind cheeses
  • “cheese cake”

Characteristics:

Body Acidity Sweetness Tannins
Full medium-high very sweet low

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Sherry

AKA: Jerez – Xérès – Fino – Manzanilla – Manzanilla Pasada – Amontillado – Oloroso – Amoroso – Palo Cortado – Jerez Dulce

Dessert sherry is traditionally served slightly chilled in a special, tulip-shaped glass called a copita. However, if you don’t happen to have copitas lying around your house, any small glass will do.

Sherry is ideally suited with desserts featuring nuts. It also goes very well with blue cheeses, such as Gorgonzola or Stilton.

Cheese Pairings:

Finos, Manzanillas and Amontillados:

  • Gruyere
  • Swiss
  • Fontina
  • Emmenthal
  • Danbo
Palo Cortado, Olorosos:

Cream, Pale Cream:

  • Blue cheese
  • Stilton
  • Gorgonzola
  • mild Cheddar
  • Cambozola
  • Manchego
  • Murcia al Vino
  • Mahon
  • Fourme D’Ambert

Characteristics:

Body Acidity Sweetness Tannins
Fino, Manzanilla medium low dry low
Amontillado medium low dry to medium low
Palo Cortado medium low medium low
Oloroso medium Acidity** medium low
Cream, Pale Cream Body** low sweet low

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Ice Wine

AKA: Icewine – Eiswein – Vin de Glace – Vin de Glacière – Vin Glace

When made in the traditional way, ice wine, or “eiswein” as it is called in Germany and Austria, is left on the vine long after the typical harvest is finished until temperatures drop enough for the grapes to freeze. Workers then race to pick the frozen grapes and press them carefully so that the water content is separated (as ice) from the sweet nectar that will become the wine. Making wine this way is risky. Though vines are typically covered with nets to protect them, warm weather, rot, hungry birds and animals, and stormy weather can result in little to no harvest at all. Because grape yields are so low, true ice wine is rare and expensive.

Do NOT serve ice wine with cheese: It is too intense and sweet for cheese.
Save your ice wine to drink by itself.

Characteristics:

Body Acidity Sweetness Tannins
Typical from white grapes full high but perceived medium sweet low to medium
Typical from red grapes full Acidity** sweet medium

One easy rule of thumb if you don’t find what you’re looking for here:
Pairing a wine with a cheese that comes from the same region is usually a fair bet.

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Note: I get really excited about cheese and wine, so it’s difficult for me to be brief when there is so much wonderful information to share!

Also check:

***In Development, please keep checking.


Reference: Content and images based on information from: https://www.wikipedia.org/ https://cheese.com https://www.cookipedia.co.uk
https://culturecheesemag.com https://www.gourmetsleuth.com https://winefolly.com/ https://www.tasteatlas.com https://www.wine.com/ https://winemonger.com https://www.terroir-france.com/


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