Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Wine >
Dec 9, 2007 03:41 AM

Interesting Discussion of Not Serving Red Wines with Cheese

Wondering what the CH wine gurus think of this!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. So do I.

    I recently brought back a couple of premier cru Bordeaux from my parents' wine cellar (better storage temperature than my NYC apartment) and noted a message on the wine board stating that the best way to savor such wines would be with an after-meal cheese course. Was thinking of doing that . . . until I read the article this morning. Now I'm not sure how I'll highlight them.

    1. While waiting for it to load, I pondered the question before reading the article, and my conclusion didn't change after reading it.

      Most people have absolutely no clue when it comes to appropriate pairings. A good pairing enhances both the wine and the cheese. An average pairing does nothing for either, and a really poor pairing diminishes both. Try tasting a fine goat's cheese with a crisp Sancerre, wonderful- with a hearty red of any variety- yuck.

      I have literally spent years tasting wines and cheeses together (but hey, I was surrounded by hundreds of cheeses every day from which to test, and lots of friends with great bottles of wine to play with), and one thing that's true- it's HARD for find a *perfect* match between any one bottle and any one cheese. And, a Pinot from France will pair very differently than an Oregon Pinot. Most pairing "rules" are far too general.

      Therefore, McCalman is certainly right in that since most cheese courses offer a variety, this ensures that some pairings will be good, but most will be dreadful.

      8 Replies
      1. re: cheesemonger

        Can you help me, cheesemonger? I have two bottles of a '75 Haut Bages Liberal and two of an '85 La Lagune. Would you recommend serving them with cheese and if so, what would you recommend?

        1. re: JoanN

          If you insist on cheese, try to find an old Mimolette.

          1. re: carswell

            I don't insist on cheese. I'm looking for whatever might be the best pairing for the wine. What would you suggest?

            ETA: Wasn't familiar with Mimolette and just looked it up in Steven Jenkins "Cheese Primer." He says, "Mimolette is one of the blandes cheeses you'll ever tast." Doesn't sound very appealing.

            1. re: JoanN

              Mimolette's blandness is one reason why it doesn't clash with tannic reds or overpower old wines. And when old, it gains a granular, slightly sweet edge that makes it a decent foil for old Bordeaux.

              For other pairings, see the recent 1982 Margaux thread and be sure to go light on garlic and other powerful flavours for that 32-year-old Haut Bages; in fact, it might not be a bad idea to serve it with a veal roast or simply roasted fowl (guinea hen, pheasant).

          2. re: JoanN

            carswell has a point- you want something that's not going to compete.

            My recommendation is for a nice semi-hard sheep's milk cheese. These are subtle and creamy, but will complement your wines rather than fight with them. I think Mimolette, personally, will be too salty. Maybe I'm just not a Mimolette fan.

            One excellent pairing cheese is P'Tit Basque. (not available at Whole Foods, FYI). That was a "cheater" cheese that seems would always work with many wines. We called it a "cheater" because if you tasted the wine, then chose P'Tit Basque for the pairing, you were cheating, and would always "win", since it worked with so much. Others to look for- Ossau-Iraty, Abbaye de Belloc and Etorki from France, or Manchego or Zamorano from Spain, but I'd go with the french first.

            When shall I arrive? ;D

            1. re: cheesemonger

              What about a Rochetta or La Tur three milk cheese????

              1. re: emilief

                I love those, don't get me wrong- but they may be overpowering to the wine. I was trying to find something more subtle.

                Great, now craving La Tur... thanks a lot. ;p

                1. re: cheesemonger

                  Interesting - I find them relatively mild but hey, they are delicious no matter what you drink them with!

        2. As with so many other tastes, conventional thinking is out the window. I think any pairing that please the individual's palate, is a good pairing.

          1. As extensively documented on this and other wine boards, I'm a longtime skeptic about pairing red wines and cheeses and have often felt like a voice crying in the wilderness, so it's great to have some heavyweights chiming in.

            That said, the problem with sweeping statements of the sort that "red wines don't go with cheese" or "Gewurztraminer is THE Gruyère wine" is that in the end we're talking about taste and personal preferences and such statements don't acknowledge that. Excuse the self-reference but here's something I wrote last week: "I'm very much of the opinion that big dry reds don't work well with most cheeses. Others swear by the pairing. Only you can decide which camp you're in." Recently, in response to a query about what to serve with a 1982 Château Margaux, several of the local wine gurus actually recommended cheeses, from macaroni and cheese up to Roquefort and even including an assortment that, according to the last sentence in the NYT article, would court disaster. The mere thought of a Roquefort or chèvre with a fine old Bordeaux makes me shudder but others find it good enough to recommend. Who's to say who's right?

            I suspect the tendancy to automatically pair red wines and cheeses stems from a matrix of factors: whites are underappreciated ("real men don't drink whites"); cheese courses usually come at the end of the meal and diners are inclined to keep going with whatever they're drinking (probably a red) and disinclined to switch from a dry red to a dry white ("the white would be overpowered"); the inertia of tradition (years of conditioning resulting in little exposure to the pairing of fine cheese and fine dry whites); the popular image of English gentlemen retiring to the library after dinner and passing the decanter of port to savour with their Stilton and cigars; and so on. If articles like this one push people out of their ruts, so much the better.

            Despite knocking sweeping statements above, I'll end with one I'm ready to defend. Substantial whites made from unaromatic grapes like Chardonnay are better candidates for generic cheese pairing, for matching with a wide range of cheeses, than just about any red.

            1 Reply
            1. re: carswell

              Recently, we did two, back-to-back cheese courses, at a certian restaurant. This spot prizes itself with the cheese selections. On one night, we were finishing with an older Bdx, and I added a bigger, older FR Chard. The guests looked at me, but each enjoyed this additional wine with the cheeses. Next night, we had an older Cal-Cab (beef was the specialty of the house), and we added a big Cal-Chard, and it went well.

              Now, I worked with the Maitre Fromager to pair his selections (about 40 cheeses) with the wines, but we had not problem. Did all cheeses go with all wines? Not on your life. Did the guests look askance, when I added a full-bodied white? You bet. Did we have some great pairings? Yes!

              I agree that sweeping statements, regarding food and wine, are often wrong and a disservice to readers, but it happens, and sells magazines, newspapers, blog-sites, whatever.


            2. Note how the author cleverly gives herself an out:

              QUOTE: "....Robust reds can handle some sturdy cheeses, like Cheddar or Parmigiano-Reggiano, with aplomb. But when it comes to Brie, Epoisses, Livarot and most blues, there’s no contest...."

              Well, that's a little like saying that Reds are great with prime rib but when it comes to shellfish they're not much of a match...

              So many cheeses are great matches with a number of red wines: Appenzeller, beaufort Savoyard, Cheddar, Chevre, Feta, Gloucester, Gorgonzona, Aged Goudas, Iberico, Montasio Mezzano, Parmesan reggiano, Pecorino, Provolone Val Padana to name a few...

              As for Epoisses which the author claims is only a white-friendly cheese, what about Epoisses and Pinot Noir ?? And it's not bad with zinfandel either...

              Honestly, this is a vacuous article.

              6 Replies
              1. re: Chicago Mike

                >> Honestly, this is a vacuous article.

                I agree, I don't see any big wisdom in this article either. Another writer who has to come up with something to fill up her newspaper column and lay claim to some originality.

                1. re: Chicago Mike

                  "As for Epoisses which the author claims is only a white-friendly cheese, what about Epoisses and Pinot Noir ?? And it's not bad with zinfandel either..."

                  Époisses with PN (except 50 or 60 year old bottles that have evolved into something not exactly PNish) is not a highly regarded match in France -- quite rightly in my opinion. For example, the *Encyclopédie des fromages* recommends Pouilly-Fuissé, sweet Sauternes and marc de Bourgogne. The combination with Zinfandel is lethal to both the cheese and the wine.

                  1. re: carswell

                    I could give you any number of links praising Epoisses and Pinot Noir, let me know how many you want...

                    but that's not how I gauge a wine and cheese match as you might imagine,.... I might use a reference book as a starting point for sampling pairings but usually I just line up 6 or 8 cheeses and a variety of wines and start sampling away...

                    In the case of Epoisses and Pinot, I just trust my palate and find it a lovely combination, 8.00 on a 10.00 scale... Have you actually tried Epoisses and zin and found it to be lethal or is this what a textbook says ?

                    There's a link somewhere on this board you may recall where wine and food matching textbooks are discussed... one of the things many posters observed about those books is how contradictory many of them are. This textbook touts this combination, that textbook touts a different combination... at the end of the day all we can do is sample these ourselves.

                    1. re: Chicago Mike

                      I'm with Mike here- the proof is on the palate. I think he's the only other poster on here who's list of actual pairings rivals mine.

                      I also agree that a nice Burgundy and an Epoisses can be a superb match. But it can also depend on the bottle, the state of the wine and the state of the cheese. That's why recommendations can be so very difficult.

                      1. re: Chicago Mike

                        Yes, I've tried Époisses -- the raw and thermalized milk varieties -- with a range of reds, including Zin. None of them have knocked my socks off, and a few matches, including the Zin (a lovely Ridge Essence, if I recall correctly), were certifiably gag worthy. IMHO, of course.

                        But instead of questioning my experience -- which I assure you is at least as extensive as yours -- why don't you address my point? You dismissed the article's author out of hand by calling her claim that red wine is not a satisfactory match for Époisses preposterous (in so many words). But it's not. It's an opinion shared by many in the food and wine business (including people like de Villaine, who knows a thing or two about Burgundian wine and cheese), as is shown by the recommended pairings in what was (and may still be) the most popular cheese guide in France (and one that has Joël Robuchon's seal of approval).

                        Similarly, you made the author's admission that her personal preferences admit some cheese and red wine matches into a strawman, the knocking down of which meant you could write the article off as vacuous.

                        Yeah, books are contradictory and should be taken with a grain of salt. So are wine board posts. And, yeah, when all is said and done, what matters is what makes sense to each taster's palate (see "in the end we're talking about taste and personal preferences" above). But I don't know of any wine and cheese pairing book that claims to be the bible, the last word. Unlike statements like "Gewurztraminer is THE wine for Gruyère" for example.

                        1. re: carswell


                          I think the mere match of Pinot and Epoisses adequately addresses the writers contention that no red wines are matches for the cheese...

                          Now, I do recognize that most red wine and cheese matches tend to be quite bold and dramatic, note the author uses the terms "... robust, sturdy, and 'with aplomb' ..." to refer to those few reds & cheese matches she acknowledges.... and it may be that those who don't like these matches tend to have more delicate palates... otherwise I just have no explanation for the idea that reds don't match with cheese.

                          Also noted your disagreement about serving cheese with a great Bordeaux... I'm wondering which classic French restaurants you dine at that don't offer a cheese course

                          and, fwiw, gewurztraminer IS the fondue wine, lololol