There is a long history of wine and cheese matching, probably as long as cheese and wine have both been around. An old adage in the days of Wine Negotiants purchasing French wines for the British market was, "Buy on apple, sell on cheese". The high malic acid content of a crisp green apple high-lighted wine faults when the negotiant tasted the wine prior to purchase, allowing better price negotiation.
However, when it was time to sell the wine, cheese was served with the wine when being tasted by potential purchasers, as the lactic acid of the cheese coated the mouth making the wine taste softer, rounded and more approachable, hence more attractive and easier to sell.
White Mould Cheeses
When young, these cheeses can be chalky and acidic and the flavour tends toward the bland, as the cheese matures the centre becomes more ripe and the rind develops a stronger flavour.
Theses cheeses can become quite pungent. With both young and older cheeses a wine with good acid works best - New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is a natural choice as are unoaked Chardonnay, lighter style reds, rosé and rosé sparkling wines. As the cheese becomes older and stronger flavoured, match with wines with more depth and flavour.
These are cheeses like Gorgonzola, Kikorangi, Blue Vein and Stilton. These cheeses can be salty and tangy or rich round and creamy. In texture they can be very soft through to crumbling.
These can be quite difficult cheeses to match with wines - the best matches tend to be sweet wines. For milder cheeses try botrytised Rieslings, late harvest and ice wine or even an Asti Spumante. With the richer flavoured blues, match with Ports - Ruby, Tawny and Late Bottled Vintage or try a big ripe jammy Australian Shiraz.
Washed Rind Cheeses
These are cheeses like Brick, Raclette and Tilsit and encompass a wide range of flavours and styles from mild moist cheeses that have a yeasty rindy and creamy centre through to stronger flavoured and smelling cheeses that are runny with an almost ammonia component to the smell - not for the faint-hearted!
With the milder styles try sparkling bottle fermented whites and lighter style dry fruity reds eg: Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. For the more mature and richer styled cheeses try Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris or a late harvest Riesling.
Cheddar and Eye Cheese (Gouda, gruyere)of our most popular cheeses, cheddar is a hard cheese that is sharp tasting with the flavour gaining intensity with age (which can be up to two years). Eye cheeses cover styles such as Gruyere and Swiss style cheeses.
While all these cheeses suit red wines, Pinot Blanc and unoaked Chardonnay will also match brilliantly. Red wines with more flavour intensity such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz suit the older cheeses.
Hard cheeses like Parmesan, Pecorino, Cheddar (older cheddars are also considered hard cheese) and double Gloucester can have a pungent yet slightly sweet nutty flavour. Parmesan and Pecorino also have a reasonably high salt content.
These are all cheeses that suit big flavoured red wines. Try with big Australian Shiraz or sweet fortified wines such as Ports (Tawny, Ruby, Vintage and Late Bottled Vintage) and Australian Liqueur Tokay and Liqueur Muscat fortified wines.
Normally used in cooking, for example Ricotta, Feta, Mozzarella.
With these cheeses the wine needs to be matched to the flavour and intensity of the food dish. Full bodied white wines such as Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Viognier as well as lighter reds such as Pinot Noir and even a younger lighter styled Merlot will work here.