Red Wine and Cheese Pairing: What You Need to Know

red wine and cheese pairings - fruits and meats on white ceramic plate beside wine glass and bottle

When it comes to timeless food combinations, few can rival that classic combo of red wine and cheese pairing. Both fermented foods. Both are foods crafted by artisans. Both, when paired together, harmonize in your mouth.

Red Wine and Cheese Pairing Tips and Techniques

With an endless variety of red wines and cheeses to choose from, it can be challenging to know where to start.

Here are some quick tips to pair cheese with your next bottle of red wine.

1. Match Geography

The saying in the culinary world is: “What grows together, goes together.” This is 100% true for red wine and cheese pairing. If you have a Spanish Rioja, then go for a nutty, salty Spanish Manchego sheep cheese.

2. Pair Like with Like: Heavy Cheese with Heavy Wines, Light Cheese with Light Wines

Wines and cheeses come in different styles: heavier and lighter. Think of an aged sharp cheddar versus a light goat cheese. Likewise, a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon versus a fruity, friendly Beaujolais Nouveau. Pair cheese and wine styles together that are similar.

2. Pair High Tannin Wines with Aged Cheeses

Wines with high tannin levels, common in youthful, full-bodied reds, inexpensive Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc, and Tannat, marry beautifully with flavorful aged cheeses. The salt in aged cheeses softens wine tannins and makes them taste fruitier. The fat in these cheeses will bind to the tannins and help cleanse your palate. Think aged, smoked Gouda. Yum.

3. Pair Similar Styles

A general rule is to match wine and cheese styles. If you have fun and funky natural wine, go ahead and try pairing it with an artisinal, funky cheese. What else? Aged wines pair well with aged cheeses, young wines pair well with young, fresh styles of cheese.

4. Sweet Wines Pair with Cheese

Don’t forget sweet, fortified wines! The salt in hard cheeses, like an aged white cheddar, helps balance out the sugar in sweet fortified wines. Powerful wines, like Port and Madeira, pair with heavy, rich cheeses, like blue cheese and Gorgonzola.

Exploring Red Wine and Cheese Pairings

Let’s delve into some exquisite red wine and cheese pairings that are sure to tantalize your taste buds.

1. Pinot Noir and Brie

The soft, creamy flavors of brie cheese harmonize wonderfully with the red berry, fruit-forward flavors of Pinot Noir, creating a balanced pairing where neither overpowers the other. (Check out more delightful Pinot Noir and cheese pairings here.)

2. Malbec and Manchego

The robust, fruity notes of Malbec with its blueberry and blackberry notes (often with coffee and chocolate, too) complement the nutty, savory essence of Manchego cheese, creating a rich and satisfying pairing.

3. Syrah and Blue Cheese

Syrah’s bold and spicy characteristics pair splendidly with the creamy, tangy taste of blue cheese, forming a dynamic and indulgent fusion of flavors. (This pairing works with Cobb salad.)

See: Syrah Cheese Pairing Guide

4. Zinfandel and Asiago

The bold, jammy flavors of Zinfandel balance exquisitely with the sharp, nutty undertones of Asiago cheese, offering a tasteful synergy.

5. Grenache and Camembert

The fruity, spicy notes of Grenache enhance the soft, creamy texture and mild flavors of Camembert, resulting in an elegant and delightful pairing.

6. Sangiovese and Parmesan

Sangiovese’s bright, cherry-like flavors harmonize with the sharp, salty notes of Parmesan cheese, creating a classic and timeless combination. This is a true culinary pairing – Italian to the core.

7. Barolo and Taleggio

The robust, complex characteristics of Barolo are beautifully contrasted by the creamy, pungent qualities of Taleggio cheese, delivering a sophisticated and captivating pairing.

8. Rioja and Idiazabal

Spanish Rioja’s earthy, red fruit flavors find a wonderful companion in the slightly smoky, nutty taste of Idiazabal cheese, resulting in a distinctive and memorable taste experience.

9. Chianti and Pecorino

Similar to parmesan, Pecorino is a hard Italian cheese that begs to be paired with classic Italian red wines. Grab your bottle of Chianti and a block of Pecorino, and you’re all set. Chianti has a tart cherry quality with higher acidity. Pecorino’s earthy, salty, dry nature marries well with this Wednesday spaghetti night wine.

10. Cabernet Sauvignon and Smoked Gouda

As highlighted before, potent cheeses demand wines with a matching intensity. Aged, smoky Gouda pairs wonderfully with the tannins found in Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine’s robust profile is beautifully complemented by the rich, smoky flavors of Gouda. Rather than one overshadowing the other, they blend harmoniously, crafting a delightful marriage of bold tastes worthy of your time.

Discover: Goat Cheese and Wine Pairing Guide

Final Thoughts on Red Wine and Cheese Pairing

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Red wine and cheese pair well together, and with a little effort, you’ll be selecting bottles and wedges that complement each other in no time.

If you do nothing else, think about the styles of both and try to match them.

Personally, I always keep aged white cheddar and goat cheese in my fridge for last-minute red wine and cheese get-togethers.

  • Aged White Cheddar: Pairs well with medium and full-bodied reds
  • Goat Cheese: Pairs with lighter, fruiter red wines

With the basics covered, I’m all set!

Thirsty for More?

Check out this post for more cheese and Merlot pairing recommendations, specifically.

Here’s a list of big red wines, that will work with big, bold cheeses.

Check out this list of cold appetizers for red wines for your next event.

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