Wine and cheese: two of life’s simplest and most luxurious delights. You don’t have to travel to a Parisian al fresco bistro to indulge in luxurious wine and cheese pairings. Instead, head to your own backyard or nearby park to enjoy a simple picnic of perfectly paired wines and cheeses.
We’ve taken some of the guesswork out of the matching wine-with-cheese game for you! For each category of cheeses (bloomy, hard, blue, and fresh/soft), we’ve made suggestions. Feel free to experiment with variations within the suggested categories.
Bloomy cheeses: keep it light
Bloomy cheeses are categorized as creamy, rich cheeses with soft rinds - think brie, camembert, taleggio, and goat cheese. These are also frequently referred to as soft or fresh cheeses - perfect for spreading on crackers or bruschetta. Don’t be alarmed to learn that most cheeses are aged and therefore aren’t considered fresh cheeses! Fresh cheese is just what it sounds like: freshly-made cheese. Brie, a popular soft cheese, might age for no longer than four weeks, which is a fairly young age for cheese.
Dry whites like champagne, chardonnay, and pinot blanc work well with these cheeses as does a light Chenin Blanc. If you like to stick with red wines, try a Beaujolais paired with a soft or bloomy cheese.
Hard cheeses: rich wines necessary
What qualifies a cheese to be a hard cheese? Well, the name alone suggests that a hard cheese will have a stiffer texture than a soft, spreadable cheese, but another telltale sign that you’re dealing with hard cheese is saltiness. Look at the label - if it says “sharp” or “extra sharp,” chances are it’s a hard cheese.
Sharp cheeses like gouda, cheddar, and parmesan taste best with rich reds like merlot, cabernet sauvignon, or chianti while a more mild cheese like gruyere does better with a sauvignon blanc.
Blue cheeses: balance with sweet
It’s more polite to refer to the set known as ‘stinky cheeses’ as blue cheeses, named for the blue mold that runs through them like veins - no worries, this mold is entirely edible and won’t make you sick (unless you’re allergic to penicillin). This group of cheeses tends to be on the salty side and is known for its pungency. Members of this cheese family include gorgonzola, stilton, and Roquefort.
Blue cheeses need sweeter wines such as port, late-harvest Rieslings, and sauternes to balance their strong and salty flavor.
What to pack
For a perfect summer afternoon or early evening picnic, make sure to bring along the following:
- A small cutting board
- A cooler filled with ice
- A baguette, crackers, or pita
- A corkscrew
- A blanket
- Cheese knives - this set has engraved labels so you’ll always know which one to use
- Cheese markers - if you’re picnicking with a large group of friends or family, these chalkboard markers will let everybody know which cheese they’re about to devour.