There’s not much that beats a glass of wine with a perfectly paired cheese. These two foods of the gods are truly a match made in heaven, and honestly, it’s hard to go wrong with any wine and cheese pairing.
Despite their inherent deliciousness, there are certain cheeses and varieties that blend especially beautifully. When matching wine with food, it’s always important to take the elements of each into careful consideration.
Texture, region, saltiness versus sweetness, fat content and acidity are all key factors to think about when selecting the best wedge for your wine. Here, we explore some of the best cheeses and their perfect wine pairings to elevate your festive season grazing boards - or any grazing board year-round, for that matter!
One of the first rules of matching food and wine is to pair by region. Different locations boast different kinds of soil, climates and growing conditions, all of which have a major impact on the taste and quality of the produce.
These shared complementary properties also take a lot of guesswork out of the pairing process. For instance, it’s a pretty safe bet that French wine like Chardonnay works well with brie or camembert.
Looking closer to home, a Hunter Valley washed rind cheese (think creamy, gooey and delightfully complex) pairs perfectly with our 2019 Oakey Creek Vineyard Semillon. The wine’s zesty acid backbone offsets the rich, creamy flavour of the cheese and refreshes the palate between bites. This is just one example of the benefits of pairing by region.
When it comes to soft cheeses, white wines are your go-to match. The softer, creamier texture and taste of these cheeses require the zest and acidity in white wines to cut through their fat and balance their richness. Luckily, the Hunter Valley region specialises in Semillon - there’s simply nowhere else in the world in which a single vineyard Semillon can age up to twenty years in the bottle, after all!
Pair with: Chardonnay or Champagne
Two of the most beloved soft cheese classics are camembert and triple cream brie. Their buttery melt-in-your-mouth qualities are unmatched by any other cheese variety, and when paired with the right wine, you’ll be in for a sumptuous sensory treat.
These soft textured cheeses require a sharp, acidic flavour that shines in white wines. A Chardonnay’s driving force is its acidity, which cuts through the fatty elements of the cheese and offers a refreshing contrast to its rich creaminess. Our 2022 Chardonnay features fine, juicy citrus flavours on the palate, which add a lovely burst of freshness to balance out the soft cheese.
Looking for a little more zip with your sip? Champagne creates a delightful bubbly zing that contrasts sharply yet beautifully with soft cheeses. These two French staples bring a festive flair to any occasion!
Pair with: Sauvignon Blanc or Rosato
This creamy Italian cheese is famous for its runny centre and milky, buttery flavour. ‘Burrata’ means ‘buttered’, which is a pretty perfect indication of its flavour profile. The indulgent blend of sweet cream, stringy mozzarella and rich milk requires an acidic offset similar to brie and camembert. We love pairing this with a ripe Sauvignon Blanc for that sharp cleansing to complement the richness.
In keeping with regionality, an Italian rosé also goes hand-in-hand with Burrata cheese. Our 2022 Rosato offers a deliciously light refresher with a nice dry finish to balance the milky, creamy cheese. While technically a red wine, our Rosato has plenty of zesty acid to cut through the cheese’s richness.
Cheddar, Pecorino, Parmigiano, Emmantel. There’s a long list of delicious hard cheeses, but which wines are their best match? When considering whether to pair white wine or red wine with cheese, it’s helpful to remember that while soft cheeses match best with white wines, hard cheeses work wonders with red. This is a great general rule to keep in mind when thinking about what to serve with wine.
Pair with: Pinot Noir
This nutty, medium-firm cheese hails from La Gruyère in southern Switzerland. Smooth and delicate, Gruyère creates a perfect match with the lighter notes in a Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noir is a versatile red when it comes to food and wine pairing. While this is fantastic for our red wine-lovers, the delicacy of the grape can easily become overpowered by certain cheeses. It’s important to avoid strong smelling cheeses like blue or goat to preserve the foundations of the wine and prevent them from being drowned by the cheese’s strength.
This is what makes Gruyère the perfect complement to a glass of Pinot. Its softly creamy and slightly nutty taste is enriched by the ripe tannins and fruit driven palate of something like our 2021 Indigo Vineyard Pinot Noir. This vintage strikes the best balancing act between cheese and wine for an unbeatable gastronomic experience.
Pair with: Shiraz
One of our favourite cheese and wine pairings of all is a scrumptiously sharp cheddar with a rich and juicy Shiraz. The depth of flavour presented by a crumbly piece of cheddar calls for a wine that will hold its own without taking the lead in the pairing.
Our 2020 Sturt Road Shiraz is the perfect example of a classic Barossa Valley red with plenty of pure fruit sweetness to melt the sharpness of the cheddar. Combined with its fine long, ferric-like tannins, this vintage is a must-try when it comes to sharp cheddar pairings.
For those who love a well-matured cheese taste, we invite you to venture down into the cellars to discover the perfect wine pairings for aged cheeses. The intensity of these flavours require a precise vintage match to balance out their almost tangy taste without overpowering the cheese, and vice-versa.
Pair with: Cabernet Sauvignon
Similar to a sharp cheddar pairing, aged cheddar requires a wine that can lift it off the palate without allowing it to get whisked away by the strength of the vintage. Aged cheddar boasts a lovely bold fattiness that begs for something dry and sizable on the palate, like a Cabernet Sauvignon. The full-bodied flavours match perfectly with the boldness of the cheese, while the drying tannins help to soak up the fattiness without drowning the cheese itself.
For a deliciously deep and dark indulgence, try our 2020 Wildwood Road Cabernet Sauvignon with a grazing board of aged cheddar. The black fruit-forward notes give way to hints of cedar and coffee, all of which play with the sharp tang of an aged cheddar to delicate perfection.
Pair with: Pinot Noir or Chardonnay
Tickle your taste buds with this aged cheese delicacy. Barrique cheese is essentially raw cow’s milk cheese that’s aged in oak barrels used for wine fermentation. This unique ageing process is designed to preserve the softness of the cheese while infusing it with the nuanced notes imparted from the wine to the barrels themselves.
This makes it a wonderful versatile cheese that can be paired with a variety of wines depending on which barrel it’s aged in. The sweet, fresh cow’s milk foundations are supple enough to take on the fragrance and subtle notes left by the barrel’s fermentation, providing a clean slate on which to create.
The long-matured nature of barrique cheese requires something a little more complex to match its flavours. We recommend a textured Chardonnay or a flavoursome Pinot Noir to really make this cheese sing.
Next time you’re matching wine with food, why not pay a visit to Wine Country? Sample some of the finest local cheeses and regionally paired wines in the Hunter Valley at our Cellar Door! Enjoy sunset sips and nibbles on our Terrace Wine Bar or indulge in some light snacking at Cru Bar + Pantry throughout the week.
From cured meat and soft cheese charcuterie boards to barrique aged cheese boards, you’ll be treated to some of the best local produce paired to perfection with our Hunter Valley wines.
Reserve a seat at our Terrace Wine Bar, open Sunday-Thursday from 11am-4pm and Friday-Saturday from 11am-7pm.
Book for lunch or a bite to eat at Cru Bar + Pantry, open daily from 11am.