Cheese and wine is a paring made in heaven; there isn’t a better way of ending a dinner or just sipping some great wine with cheese. However not all cheeses and wines are made to go together, there are rules that can help in pairing them. Like any food and wine pairing, the secret is in finding the balance between the two.
And the balance must be found between the “after taste” of the cheese, the flavour that stay in our mouth after chewing it and the after taste of the wine - there is an old say that says “a red wine going off with the right cheese can reborn”. The elements of this combination are alcohol and glycerine, acidity and effervescence. They are responsible for striking a balance with the fatty and salty parts of the cheese.
If it is commonly accepted that a good glass of red wine is the perfect accompaniment to a cheese board, not all reds are suitable, young wines with tannins can increase the astringency of the wine. And whilst not all red wines are suitable for cheese, often white wines and passiti, often called sweet wines, can remedy and pair cheese perfectly. Sometime, fortified wines, such as the Sicilian Marsala, are the perfect match. Any wine can shine with the right cheese or viceversa. Another way to look at the wine and cheese pairing is to look at the provenance and pair local wines with local cheeses, always bearing in mind what we said above about the “after taste”.
This is the general rule, but lets look at some of the most famous Italian cheeses and their pairings.
Let’s start with Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano
, two of the most famous. Parmigiano and Grana maturation varies from a few months to several years so varies the wine. For young cheeses, a sparkling wine like a Franciacorta or any Classic Method
wine are perfectly fine but for more matured cheeses, if we still want to drink a sparkling wine, we need a more structured classic method sparkling wine, a millesimato or a riserva, if we prefer a red wine, the Sforzato della Valtellina
is a match. Buffalo mozzarella
is another classic Italian cheese, we all love it, soft, full of buffalo milk, sweet, in this case we need a white wine that doesn’t have too much acidity, a Caprettone
from Vesuvio will pair it perfectly or a rosato
from Umbria if we like rose’ wines.
Another cheese we love at Italyabroad.com is the caciocavallo and the scamorza, normal or smoked, similar to the mozzarella but with a very short maturation. Here we want a wine like the Valpolicella
or a Lagrein
if the cheese is smoked.
If you like the Taleggio or the Fontina
, creamy, mild semi soft cheeses, a smooth and soft Merlot
would pair them perfectly.
What about Gorgonzola or blue cheese
? If you love gorgonzola the way we do, the authentic, creamy gorgonzola, our suggestion would be a Marsala Superiore
or if you are not too keen on fortified wines, an Amarone della Valpolicella
or a Primitivo di Manduria
We could not put together a cheese and wine guide without including Pecorino
. As you probably know, Pecorino is made all over Italy, any cheese made with sheep’s milk is called Pecorino. Pecorino cheeses are both, young and matured. For a young Pecorino cheese an unaged Sangiovese
, for a mature cheese, a more structured Sangiovese
Lastly if you are a fans of goat cheese
, a Sauvignon
will do the job.
These are only some of the Italian cheeses
we love, it will be impossible to list and pair all cheeses made in Italy, but if we haven’t mentioned your favourite Italian cheese and would like us to suggest a wine, please comment below and will happily do.