Savouring a good dessert wine with a perfectly paired cheese selection can be an indulgent experience. Regarding wine and cheese pairings, dessert wine and cheese pairings might be the ultimate classic, offering a range of delicate and complex flavours that can truly elevate the dining experience. Whether you are a seasoned wine and cheese connoisseur or a newbie to the concept, finding the perfect dessert wine and cheese pairing can be a challenge. In this article, we’ll explore some of the best classic dessert wine and cheese pairings and offer tips on creating the perfect cheese board and wine selection to impress guests or enjoy a cozy night in.
One of the essential 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. Dessert wine has a high sweetness and pairs well with sweet desserts. If you drink dry wine with a sweet dessert, it will taste sour. You can also pair dessert wine with salty foods, like blue cheese—the combination of sweet and salty tastes great.
Dessert wines are often paired with cheeses to balance their sweetness and enhance their flavour. Some of the most popular cheeses that go well with dessert wines include:
Blue cheeses such as Roquefort, Stilton, or Gorgonzola pair beautifully with sweet dessert wines. The sweetness of the wine complements the bold and tangy flavours of blue cheese. The contrasting flavours create a delicious balance. With its rich and crumbly texture, Stilton pairs wonderfully with sweet dessert wines like Port or Late Harvest. Stilton‘s intense and complex flavours, often including nuttiness and hints of blue mould, contrast nicely with the sweet and fruity characteristics of dessert wines.
Soft and creamy cheeses like Brie, Camembert can be a delightful pairing with many dessert wines. The buttery and slightly earthy flavours of the cheese complement the sweetness of the wine while offering a smooth and luscious texture.
Goat cheeses like fresh Chèvre or aged Bucheron work well with sweeter and drier dessert wines. The creamy and slightly tart flavours of goat cheese provide a lovely contrast to the sweetness of the wine. For drier dessert wines, consider aged goat cheese for a complex pairing.
Both young and aged, Gouda is a versatile cheese that can pair well with a range of dessert wines. The smooth and creamy texture, coupled with the slightly sweet and nutty flavours, can complement the sweetness of the wine.
Aged Cheddar cheese, especially the sharper varieties, can be paired with sweeter dessert wines. The strong and complex flavours of aged Cheddar can stand up to the sweetness of the wine, creating a balanced and satisfying combination.
Hard and nutty cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano have a complex flavour profile that pairs well with the bold flavours of dessert wines.
Aged cheeses like Manchego, Pecorino Romano, and Asiago, have a sharp and tangy flavour that enhances the sweetness of the dessert wine.
When pairing cheese with dessert wine, it’s essential to consider the flavour and texture of both the cheese and the wine to create a complementary and memorable pairing.
Remember, personal preferences play a significant role in cheese pairings, so feel free to experiment and discover your own delightful combinations. Additionally, add crackers, nuts, or dried fruits to enhance the cheese and wine pairing experience.
Late-harvest wines are made from grapes left on the vine for an extended period, allowing them to develop higher levels of sweetness and richness. These wines often have intense fruity flavours and a luscious, honeyed texture. It is usually enjoyed as a dessert accompaniment after a meal, pairing well with fruit-based desserts and creamy cheeses.
Late Harvest Riesling
Serve whites chilled (47ºF/8ºC)
Late Harvest Riesling is a sweet wine that pairs best with cheeses with a nutty, fruity, or slightly salty flavour to balance its sweetness. Some of the best cheese options to pair with this wine include:
The pungent and tangy flavour of blue cheese pairs beautifully with the sweetness of Late Harvest Riesling.
The nutty and slightly sweet flavour of aged Gouda complements the honeyed notes of this wine.
The salty and nutty flavour of Parmesan enhances the delicate sweetness of Late Harvest Riesling.
The salty and tangy flavour of feta cheese complements the fruitiness of this wine.
The creamy and mild flavour of Camembert cheese pairs well with the gentle sweetness of Late Harvest Riesling.
Ice wine should be served chilled, between 45-50°F (7-10°C).
Ice wine is a sweet and luscious dessert wine that is best paired with cheeses that complement and balance its flavours. Aged gouda and aged Cheddar have a rich, sharp, nutty flavour with a caramel-like sweetness that pairs well with ice wine’s intense sweetness and fruity characteristics. On the other hand, blue cheese has a bold and tangy flavour that contrasts with the wine’s sweetness. The intense, creamy, and robust flavours of blue cheese, such as Roquefort or Gorgonzola, can complement the sweetness of Ice Wine. Brie and camembert have a creamy texture and mild flavours that can balance the wine’s acidity, creating a delightful pairing. The wine’s sweetness enhances the subtle flavours of Brie, resulting in a harmonious combination. Triple cream cheeses like Brillat-Savarin or Saint-André have a high butterfat content, creating a luscious and decadent pairing with Ice Wine. The richness of the cheese complements the sweetness of the wine. Finally, goat cheese has a slightly tart and tangy taste that can complement the wine’s sweetness and fruitiness. The wine’s acidity can also help cut through the creaminess of the cheese.
When pairing iced wine with cheese, choosing lighter cheeses that won’t overpower the wine’s flavours is best. Additionally, serving crackers, nuts, and dried fruits alongside the cheese can enhance the overall flavour experience.
These are just a few suggestions, and you can certainly explore other cheese options based on your personal preferences.
Botrytized wines, also known as noble rot wines, are made from grapes affected by the beneficial fungus called Botrytis cinerea. This fungus partially dehydrates the grapes, concentrating their sugars and flavours. The result is a sweet wine with complex aromas, often displaying honey, apricot, and floral notes.
Botrytized wine typically has a rich, sweet flavour profile that pairs well with various cheeses. Some great cheese options to serve with botrytized wine include blue cheese, aged cheddar, gouda, and goat cheese. Blue cheese has a sharp and tangy flavour that contrasts nicely with the sweetness of the wine, while aged cheddar has a nutty and complex flavour that complements the wine’s flavours. Gouda is buttery and slightly sweet, making it a perfect pairing for botrytized wine. Finally, goat cheese has a tangy and earthy flavour that can balance out the wine’s intense sweetness. When serving cheese with botrytized wine, aim for a variety of textures and flavours to create a balanced and enjoyable tasting experience for you and your guests.
Serve at (42-50 ºF / 6-10 ºC)
When pairing cheese with Sauternes/Sauternais, several options can complement the wine’s sweetness. Rich and creamy blue cheeses, including Roquefort, Bleu d’Auvergne, and Stilton, pair nicely with Sauternes/Sauternais. These cheeses have a sharp, spicy flavour that balances the wine’s sweetness. Another great option is soft, spreadable cheeses like brie or camembert. These cheeses’ mild buttery flavours contrast and complement the wine’s fruitiness. Finally, aged cheeses such as parmesan and aged cheddar also make great pairing choices. The intensity of the cheese contrasts with the wine, making each taste stand out and blend in a unique way.
Fortified wines, such as Port, Madeira, or Sherry, 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. This prevents the yeast from fully converting all the grape sugars into alcohol, resulting in a sweet wine with higher alcohol content and a range of sweetness levels. The result is a sweet wine with an alcohol content of 15 to 20 percent. Suppose a wine is fortified before fermentation is completed. In that case, the wine will be sweet, as sugar will still be left, whereas a wine fortified after fermentation will be dry. Fortified dessert wines exhibit a wide range of flavours, from rich and sweet to nutty and caramelized.
Port wine and cheese are a perfect pairing. The sweetness and complexity of port wine make it an ideal complement to cheese’s savoury and salty flavours. A rich and full-bodied port complements aged cheese’s creamy and intense flavours. Strong and aged cheeses pair well with vintage ports, while milder and softer cheeses work best with younger ports.
A popular option is aged cheddar or gouda with a Tawny port. The nutty and caramel notes of the cheese pair exceptionally well with the fruity and nutty aromas of the port. A Vintage port is an excellent choice for blue cheese, such as Stilton or Roquefort, as it has strong aromas of black fruit and spice that pair well with the pungent flavour. Another option is to pair a young port with a milder, softer cheese such as Brie or Camembert. The creamy and delicate flavours of Brie or Camembert can create a harmonious balance with the smooth, sweet characteristics of a young port wine. The cheese’s richness complements the port’s fruitiness without overpowering it. This pairing is often enjoyed as a more subtle and nuanced combination. A firm sheep’s milk cheese such as Manchego or Pecorino with a Ruby port is a delightful pairing—the port’s tannins balance out the cheese’s salty and sheep’s milk flavour.
Overall, a Port wine and cheese pairing is a sensory delight that balances flavours and textures. It’s important to consider the intensity of flavours and textures. Feel free to experiment with different combinations to find your personal favourite!
Vintage Ports are often served slightly cooler, around 16-18°C (60-64°F).
This slightly lower temperature helps to showcase the wine’s complex flavours and balance, allowing its nuances to shine.
When pairing cheese with Vintage Port, it is important to look for strong, bold flavours that can stand up to the intensity of the wine. A few classic cheese pairings for Vintage Port include Stilton, Roquefort, and Gorgonzola. These blue-veined, creamy cheeses have a strong flavour profile that can complement and enhance the complex, fruity notes of the Port. Another great option is a mature cheddar, which has a nutty, sharp flavour and a crumbly texture that pairs well with the sweetness of the Port. Try an aged Manchego or tangy goat cheese for a unique pairing. Overall, Vintage Port cheese pairings should aim to balance the sweetness and richness of the wine with the bold flavours and textures of the cheese.
Tawny Ports are typically enjoyed at slightly cooler temperatures, around 12-16°C (54-60°F).
Serving them a bit cooler can help to accentuate their nutty and caramel notes.
When pairing Tawny Port wine with cheese, a good rule of thumb is to choose a similarly rich, nutty cheese with a creamy texture. One excellent option is Tawny Port cheese, a cheese that is typically made by adding Tawny Port wine to the curd during the cheesemaking process. This cheese has a tangy, fruity flavour that pairs perfectly with Tawny Port wine. Another good pairing is a hard, salty cheese like aged cheddar or gouda, which will balance the sweetness of the wine and bring out its nutty flavours. Blue cheeses like Roquefort or Stilton also work well with Tawny Port wine, as the bold flavours of the cheese complement the rich flavours of the wine.
Ruby Ports are often served slightly chilled or at a cool room temperature, around 14-16°C (57-61°F).
This temperature range helps to highlight their fruit-forward characteristics.
One great pairing for Ruby Port is with creamy blue cheese, such as Stilton or Roquefort. The bold and complex flavours in the cheese complement the sweetness and depth of the port, while the rich creaminess of the cheese helps to balance out the wine’s tannins. Another great cheese to pair with Ruby Port is a sharp cheddar. The nutty and tangy flavours of the cheese play off the fruity and spicy notes in the wine, making for a delicious and well-rounded pairing. Whether you prefer a creamy blue or a sharp cheddar, Ruby Port is a versatile wine that can elevate any cheese plate.
Late Bottled Vintage (LBV)
The recommended serving temperature for Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) Port is around 16-18°C (60-64°F).
LBV Ports are typically served at slightly cooler temperatures to enhance their flavours and drinking experience.
Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) Port pairs well with many different types of cheese, including blue cheese, cheddar, and gouda. The key to a successful pairing is to choose a cheese with enough flavour to stand up to the port without overpowering it. Try a creamy Roquefort or a tangy Gorgonzola if you prefer blue cheese. Cheddar lovers will enjoy a sharp, aged cheddar or a smooth, nutty English cheddar. Try a creamy brie or a semi-soft gouda if you prefer milder cheese.
Dry White Ports are typically served chilled like white wines at temperatures around 8-12°C (46-54°F). The colder serving temperature can enhance their refreshing qualities.
Sweet White Ports can be served a bit warmer, around 12-16°C (54-60°F), to allow their aromas and flavours to develop.
White Port pairs well with various kinds of cheese, but some of the best pairings include rich and creamy blue cheese like Stilton, Gorgonzola, or Roquefort. The sweetness of the port complements the pungency of the cheese. At the same time, the fortified wine’s alcohol content can cut through the richness of the cheese. Aged cheeses such as cheddar, Gouda, and Parmesan are also good options, as the nuttiness of the cheese pairs well with the toffee and nutty flavours of the white port. Whether enjoyed as an aperitif or a dessert pairing, white port and cheese are a delectable duo perfect for a night of indulgence.
Dessert sherry is traditionally served slightly chilled in a special, tulip-shaped glass called a copita. However, any small glass will do if you don’t have copitas lying around your house.
Depending on the type of Sherry being served, the temperature can vary slightly. It’s also important to note that the serving temperature can affect the overall experience of drinking sherry. Serving it too cold can numb the flavours and aromas, whereas serving it too warm can make the alcohol more intense and overpowering. Overall, it’s best to experiment with different temperatures to find the perfect balance that suits your preference.
Sherry and cheese are a classic pairing that complement each other beautifully. When pairing sherry with cheese, it’s important to consider the style of sherry and the type of cheese you’re working with. Sherry and cheese are a match made in heaven, and experimenting with different pairings can be a fun and delightful adventure.
Fino Sherry is best served chilled between 6-8°C (42-46°F) to enhance its crisp and refreshing character.
The ideal cheese pairing for Fino Sherry is a fresh soft cow, goat, or sheep cheese with light nutty flavours such as Ricotta, Feta, or creamy Chèvre. Aged cheeses like Manchego or Pecorino, with rich, nutty flavours and sharpness, can also beautifully complement Fino Sherry. Another great pairing is a dry Fino sherry with a tangy, salty blue cheese like Stilton. The blue cheese’s sharpness cuts through the sherry’s dryness for a delicious contrast of flavours. Pairing Fino Sherry with cheese is about balancing, not overpowering the wine’s subtle yet complex flavours. Remember to serve the cheese at room temperature to enhance its flavour and aroma, and enjoy the pairing with your favourite tapas or light dishes.
The ideal serving temperature for Amontillado sherry is between 13-14°C (55-57°F).
Amontillado can be paired with a variety of different types of cheese. The nuttiness of the wine pairs well with aged cheeses, and the smokiness pairs well with smoky cheeses. Try pairing Amontillado Sherry with aged Gouda, sharp Cheddar, or smoked Gouda cheese. The bold flavours of the cheese complement the complex flavours of the wine. Another great pairing is Manchego cheese, a Spanish cheese with a nutty buttery flavour that perfectly matches Amontillado Sherry. Ultimately, experimenting with different cheeses can lead to discovering new flavour combinations that enhance the enjoyment of wine and cheese.
To fully appreciate its aromas and flavours, it is best served at slightly chilled room temperature, around 16-18°C (60-64°F).
Oloroso is an excellent pairing for cheese, particularly nutty and aged varieties. One of the best cheese pairings for Oloroso Sherry is aged Manchego. The intense flavours of the cheese complement the richness of the wine, while the saltiness of the cheese balances the sweetness of the sherry. Blue cheeses like Stilton or Roquefort are also excellent choices, as their creamy texture and pungent, salty flavour are a match made in heaven for Oloroso’s complex taste. Try a crumbly, tangy aged cheddar or a smoked Gouda for a more unconventional pairing. These cheeses bring a whole new dimension to the nutty notes of the Oloroso. Whether you’re enjoying Oloroso with a classic Manchego or a bold Gouda, this wine and cheese duo is a sophisticated and delicious way to indulge in the finer things in life. Manchego is a sheep’s milk cheese from Spain with a nutty, buttery flavour that pairs well with the rich, caramel notes of an Oloroso sherry.
Pedro Ximénez (PX)
Pedro Ximenez (PX) Sherry is typically served at room temperature or slightly chilled. Its rich, sweet flavours are best appreciated when served between 12-15°C (54-59°F), but it is important not to serve it too cold as this can mute the flavours and aromas.
Pedro Ximénez (PX) Sherry is a sweet dessert wine that pairs incredibly well with cheeses that have a salty and savoury character. One great cheese pairing to try with PX Sherry is aged Manchego. The nutty and slightly sweet flavours of the Manchego complement the rich, sweet notes of the Sherry. Another option to consider is blue cheese, like Roquefort or Stilton, which has a robust and piquant flavour that can stand up to the sweetness of the PX Sherry. Lastly, creamy goat cheese, like Bucheron or Crottin de Chavignol, can also work well with PX Sherry. The tangy flavour of the goat cheese blends beautifully with the wine’s sweetness, while its creamy texture provides a pleasant contrast. Overall, the key to a successful cheese pairing with PX Sherry is to look for cheeses that have bold and complex flavours that can stand up to the wine’s sweetness.
Madeira wine should be served at room temperature, around 20°C (68°F).
To enjoy Madeira wine’s full range of flavours and aromas, it should not be chilled before serving. In warmer weather, it is recommended to store the wine in a cool place or a wine fridge, but it should be taken out about an hour before serving to allow it to come to room temperature. A slightly higher serving temperature can also be used to enhance certain styles of Madeira wine. For example, a Boal or Malmsey Madeira with rich and nutty flavours can be served at 22-24°C (72-75°F) to bring out more of its depth. Overall, it is important to avoid serving Madeira wine too cold as it can mask the unique characteristics of this fortified wine.
Try Madeira with a nutty, semi-hard cheese like Gouda or Comté for a classic pairing. The wine’s nutty caramel notes complement the cheese’s nuttiness and savoury character. For a more adventurous pairing, pair Madeira with a pungent blue cheese like Roquefort or Stilton. The wine’s sweetness helps cut through the cheese’s sharpness, while its flavour depth matches the cheese’s richness well. Finally, for a sweet ending to a meal, try pairing Madeira with creamy, tangy goat cheese. The wine’s caramel notes and subtle fruit flavours contrast the cheese’s tanginess, while the wine’s sweetness is an excellent match for the cheese’s creaminess.
Moscato is best enjoyed chilled, usually between 4-10°C/40-50°F. This helps to highlight its refreshing and vibrant flavours.
Moscato wine is a sweet and fruity wine that pairs well with several types of cheese. Try pairing it with a creamy, tangy blue cheese like Gorgonzola or Roquefort for a classic pairing. The sweetness of the wine complements the pungent, salty flavours of blue cheese. If you prefer a milder cheese, try pairing Moscato with a soft buttery brie or a nutty and savoury gouda. Moscato also pairs well with a variety of fruit and nut accompaniments. Consider serving it with fresh berries, dried apricots, or roasted almonds to enhance the wine’s fruity notes. Overall, a Moscato wine and cheese pairing can be a delightful and refreshing appetizer or dessert option for any occasion.
These temperature ranges are meant as a starting point; you can adjust them based on your taste preferences. It’s always a good idea to let the wine warm up a bit in the glass if it’s initially served cooler to enjoy its aromas and flavours fully.
Feel free to experiment and adjust the temperature based on your own taste preferences.
The best cheese pairing will depend on your personal preferences.
Feel free to explore and experiment to find the combination you enjoy the most.
One easy rule of thumb if you don’t find what you’re looking for here:
Pairing wine with cheese from the same region is usually a fair bet.
This article is part of “How to plan an unforgettable wine & cheese party”
These tips are from my own experience;
I’m neither a party organizer, a sommelier, nor a turophile (a cheese connoisseur).
I just love cheese, wine and spending time with family and friends.
I hope my easy tips will give you the confidence to host a wine and cheese party with a handful of close friends.
If you use my tips for your next Wine & Cheese party, please comment below and remember to take a picture, tag @Fast2eat.com and use #Fast2eat so that we can both marvel at how easy it was!
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