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The ideal wine for a cheese board

Can we just uncork one single wine? Cheeses differ greatly. They vary on the type of milk, origin or age. I want to tell you how to design a rich cheese board and choose the perfect wine pairings for it.

By Ania Smolec / June 30, 2017
Wine Journalist

When it comes to a pairing between cheeses and wines, there is an urban myth or a cliché, rather, it ensures that the best wines for cheese are red. But I do not agree. Why? For a very powerful reason: the tannins. The higher concentration of these phenolic compounds is dangerous when we have a wide variety of cheeses in front of us.

In terms of pairing, the main factors are: milk type, fat and intensity of flavors, depending on whether the cheese is salty, sweet, bitter or umami. Each of these aspects reacts in a particular way with wine. For example, the umami flavor needs a lot of acidity in the wine. That is why Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, with a high level of umami requires a brut style sparkling wine.

tabla de quesos vino blanco y tinto

How does a red wine react with this cheese? Many red wines also contain umami, but the contact of the cheese with the tannins causes an unbalanced, astringent and tannic sensation. That is why it is more convenient to choose white, rose or very light bodied red wines for this type of cheese.

To design a cheese board, you can follow several criteria. For example, only one type of milk (cow milk cheeses) or the same origin (a French table). But, to me, the perfect table has to be varied and mix several styles. So, we can start a journey through the flavors and make our matching much more entertaining and challenging.

The easiest way is to serve them according to the same order that we must try them: from the softest and freshest, to the most intense and aromatic; from the youngest to the oldest; and from the softest to the hardest. If you are going to uncork a wine for each cheese, prepare for your guests a glass for each label and probably … a spittoon! Note: cheeses should be served at room temperature (if they are in the refrigerator, remove them at least half an hour before tasting).

Fresh Cheeses

Quesos frescosThe first cheese on the table can be a fresh cheese or goat milk cheese (no matter how mature, goat cheese is always fresher and less fatty). A good one should be delicate, with herbal flavor, notes of dried fruits and a rich natural acidity.

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Soft Chesses

Quesos blandos Pinot NoirIn second place, we must serve soft cheeses with short ripening time, such as Brie and Camembert. These are aged from 2 to 6 weeks and contain a high level of moisture. Precisely this humidity is what leaves its characteristic mold.

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Semi-hard Cheeses

quesos semi-durosRemember that the cheese board is like a Hitchcock movie. The tension grows until the great finale. It is time for semi-hard cheeses with moderate flavors. They contain less water and correspond to a slower fermentation and aging process than soft cheeses, between 1 and 12 months.

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Hard Cheeses

Quesos durosThe production method of the following style is very difficult; we are talking about hard cheese. Large round blocks, mostly from alpine mountains, must have the right flavor and structure. The whole production process takes even 3 years.

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Blue Cheeses

late harvest queso azulAnd the tasting of a cheese board should end with the most spicy and strong- of course the blue cheese. The king among blue cheeses is, without a doubt, the French sheep cheese Roquefort. But we can also highlight one made of cow milk: the Italian Gorgonzola.

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As we can see, there is no better or worse style of wine to mate or harmonize with cheeses. Each cheese encloses a particular world and needs to find its soul mate. If you do not have such a wide range of wines, I recommend you to choose those fresh and creamy ones, like a rich Chardonnay from Limarí. Perfection, even in the world of cheeses, is the enemy of practical.

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