Some Wine and Cheese Pairings That Work

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Wine and cheese pairs so well. As we learned last time, the proteins and fats in cheese help to tame the tannin in red wines and creamy soft white cheeses tend to balance the bold acidity that can be found in white wines.

But, not all cheeses work with all wines. While I certainly encourage you to enjoy your favorite cheeses with your wine, here are few general guidelines that might help enhance your enjoyment.

With medium to full-bodied red wines (e.g., Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel) you're going to want cheeses that will stand up to their bigger flavors. Some cheeses that work include aged Cheddar, smoked Gouda, Monterey Jack, Manchego and Edam.

With a lighter red wines (e.g., Pinot Noir, Gamy, Rosé) consider Gruyère, Fontina, Provolone and even Swiss.

And, with white wines and sparkling wines, try Jarlsberg, Mozzarella, Chèvre (goat cheese), Feta, Ricotta, Asiago, Brie and Camembert.

Some cheeses that often show up on platters are those in the Blue Cheese family (Cambozola, Gorgonzola, Roquefort and Stilton). While these cheeses do have bold flavors, they actually work best with dessert wines such as Port.

So, if nothing else, just put bigger, bolder cheeses with bigger bolder red wines, and use the lighter and creamier cheeses with white wines. But, most of all, enjoy the countless pairing opportunities. Cheers!


Pairing Wines with Hot and Spicy Foods

When pairing wines with food, the general goal is to make sure that the flavors of the food don't overwhelm the wine and cover up all of the wine's wonderful flavors. And the basic rule of wine pairing says that you should have a red wine with beef and white wine with chicken or fish. But what about a spicy meal? And spicy includes both highly spiced foods and those hot and spicy foods. These foods can easily overwhelm a wine. But pairing options with hot and spicy foods may surprise you because it's not going to be the big bold wines that work best.

One food and wine pairing that works with almost any meal is a sparkling wine. And it works especially well with spicy foods. It can be anything from a sparkling rosé to Champagne. And even an off-dry (slightly sweet) sparkling wine work well with spicy dishes. Putting some sweetness against a spicy flavor is surprisingly good.

The moat common pairing with a hot spicy meal is to go with a Riesling. And it works.  The high acidity of a Riesling will cut through the heat while the lower alcohol won't add to the burn. In addition to Riesling, you might also consider a Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc or an Albariño. These wines all fit into the lighter side of white wines, having lower alcohol and higher acidity. Serve these wines well chilled and they can be the perfect accompaniment for a spicy meal.

Red wine lovers have options too. But stick to a light bodied red wine, especially with a hot spicy food. A slightly chilled Beaujolais or a Pinot Noir would be a great pairing here. The problem with trying to pair a big, bold red wine with a "hot" and spicy dish is that these reds tend to have high alcohol.  And what you'll find is that the higher alcohol level will add to the burn in your mouth, not reduce it.

So next time you are trying to figure out what to have with that spicy Thai food, Kung Pao Chicken, coconut milk curry or Buffalo Hot Wings, try a little bubbly, a well chilled light white wine or a slightly chilled light red wine. Cheers!

Try a Different Wine this Year with Your Turkey

As American's approach Thanksgiving, we have our traditions. And, tradition often dictates what wines will be served with our Thanksgiving meal.  

Conventional wisdom says that with the traditional turkey you must serve a white wine.  And white wines do go well with turkey.  Traditional white wine choices include:

  • Gewürztraminer - One of the Thanksgiving favorites. This is a highly aromatic wine with floral touches and spice notes such as cloves and nutmeg.
  • Riesling - This has spicy, fruity flavors with touches of peaches or apricots and a floral fragrance that compliments the meal well.
  • Sauvignon Blanc - Light and crisp, with grassy or herbaceous flavors and higher acidity.  This wine goes well with all the rich foods on the table.
  • Pinot Grigio - Light and zesty with flavors of lemon, melon and peach.
  • Chardonnay - A common choice, but best to go with the lighter and fruiter un-oaked versions that work best with all the flavors on the Thanksgiving table.

And, rosé and sparkling wines are also natural pairings with turkey. 

But turkey, by itself, is a pretty neutral meat.  And therefore, you can pair your wines just as easily with all the fixings that go along with the turkey. And red wines will often work exceptionally well with your meal.  Just as cranberry sauce goes on the table, a nice fruity red wine is a great choice:

  • Beaujolais - Light, dry and fresh with fruity flavors. And you can serve it slightly chilled.
  • Pinot Noir - Another lighter red with flavors of cherry, raspberry and strawberry. If you are in the French wine isle, this is called a red Burgundy. And this too can be served slightly chilled.
  • Carignan - This red wine is a bit higher in tannins and acid, with flavors of dark and black fruits, pepper, licorice, and spicy, savory aromas.
  • Rhône Blends - Rhône wines focus on Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre grapes, producing medium-bodied spicy blends.
  • Zinfandel - Here's a red wine that can really work with a Thanksgiving meal. Lots of intense, plummy, jammy flavors with spicy or peppery notes.

One note with the red wines, avoid the dry and tannic ones (e.g., Cabernet Sauvignon) which can get lost in the presence of all the fruit, sugar, and salt on the Thanksgiving table.

So this year try at least one non-traditional wine with your Thanksgiving meal. But, most importantly, drink what you enjoy most!  Cheers!

What Wine Should You Drink?

So many times the question is "What wine should I drink?" 

A few years ago, I was out to dinner at a very nice restaurant with three business associates, including my manager who was quite knowledgeable about wines.  The restaurant had a very good menu and a terrific wine list.  It came time to order and I chose a really great looking fish entree and a glass of French red wine that was described as something that I would really enjoy. After the waiter had taken our order and left the table, my manger asked me what I'd ordered. I repeated my order, only to have him say "You ordered a red wine with your fish?" and he looked at me funny.  I thought to myself, 'Yes...I ordered a really great looking red wine; is there a problem with that?'  Apparently I'd done something wrong.  I love red wines, and had ordered a really nice French wine that was described as something that I'd really enjoy.  But, to my manager, I'd ordered the wrong wine. Of course, I felt quite uncomfortable through the rest of the meal. But, as we got up from the table to leave the restaurant, I reflected on the dinner. The fish was really great and my glass of red wine was, as expected, outstanding. I'd had a great meal, but felt bad about it.

While I probably could have made a better pairing choice of wine with my fish, I had enjoyed a delicious meal and a fine glass of wine.  What's wrong with that?

So, what wine should you drink?  The answer is very simple; drink what you like.  And enjoy it!