Cheese and Wine Pairings: A Layperson’s Guide

Cheese and Wine Pairings: A Layperson’s Guide
How to pair cheese and wine

Cheese and Wine Pairings: A Layperson’s Guide

Cheese and wine are one of the all-time classic culinary pairings, up there with bread and butter, beef and gravy, a tub of ice cream and a spoon. There is some genuine science behind why cheese and wine work so well together, but you won’t need to explain that to the French. They’ve been pairing wine with cheese at their tables for centuries, and it’s thanks to them that this tasty tradition has spread all over the world.

This blog examines why wine and cheese go so well together and the best cheese and wine pairings. We’ll explore the best red wine for cheese so you’ll never put a foot wrong when serving the two together, as well as which white wines bring out the best in certain cheeses.

Find out the best wines to serve with a cheese board… and when it’s wise to put a stopper in the wine bottle and uncork some port or pop Champagne instead. By the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll be confident pairing wine and cheese for dinner parties, bigger soirées or intimate evenings for two. And there’s nothing to stop you from testing out cheese and wine pairings on your own until you find the ones that are just right for you.

Why do wine and cheese go together?

First of all, the science bit. There’s a saying that opposites attract, and that’s certainly true of wine and cheese. Cheese is a fatty food, while wine is astringent, and the fats found in cheese balance the acidity in wine.

When you consume wine and cheese together, the lipids in the cheese interact and bond with the grape tannins in the wine. This helps to suppress some of the astringency in the wine and any bitterness. The ‘creaming’ effect allows all the other flavours in the wine to shine through, giving your palette a fuller taste experience.

The French traditionally serve the cheese course near the end of the meal, sometime after the wine has started to flow. If you’re hosting a wine and cheese party, the trick is to ensure guests can enjoy at least a little of the wine before introducing the cheese.

By the same token, simply sipping from your glass of wine first allows for full enjoyment of the wine. Then, when the cheese is introduced, the two balance each other out for a completely different taste and mouthfeel. It’s a case of the sum being greater than the parts (even though both these parts are pretty good in the first place).

What’s the best cheese for wine?

Most people like pairing red wine with cheese. Red wines play well with bold, hearty, and aged cheeses like Cheddar or Red Leicester. These cheeses can stand up to the extra tannins red wine has, compared to white wine.

If the red wine you or your guests prefer is lighter, like a Beaujolais, then creamier soft cheeses like Brie, Swiss cheeses, Camembert and Cheshire work well.

White wines have far fewer tannins than reds do, so there is less interplay between the wine and the cheese. However, whites offer a crisp, refreshing accompaniment to cheese and the pairing comes into its own in spring and summer. Cheddar, Cheshire, Gouda, Havarti, Parmesan, Swiss and other alpine-style cheeses all make happy companions for a glass of white wine.

To sum up, all cheeses have a wine they’ll match well with. As a general rule of thumb, aged cheeses and hard cheeses tend to go well with heavier, robust wines like full-bodied red wines or with sweet or fortified wines like Riesling or port. You can also serve hard cheeses with medium-bodied reds or white.

Light-bodied reds and crisp, light whites go best with young cheeses that are usually soft varieties like mozzarella, goat’s cheese and of course, Cheshire. Read on for our guide to what cheeses pair best with different varieties and styles of red and white wine.

Best red wine for cheese

Let’s take a closer look at the best types of red wines for cheese, both from the point of view of the grapes and the regions or country of origin.

Full-bodied reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Shiraz need a punchy cheese that will stand up to their bold nature, and that’s why we recommend a good mature Cheddar.

If you’re a lover of blue cheeses like Stilton, you might want to opt for sweet and fortified wines like port or Madeira. The sweetness complements the saltiness of blue-veined cheese. Port and Stilton make a winning combination at Christmas celebrations.

If you prefer soft cheeses like Brie, Cambozola or goat’s cheese, then you can choose from softer reds – like a Merlot with its smooth plum and cherry notes or a light yet lively Pinot Noir.

It can make sense to serve wines and cheeses from the same region. So you can pair a red Rioja from Spain or a crisp and bright Albariño with Manchego cheese – or try Parmesan with Prosecco for a true taste of Italy.

Best white wine for cheese

The good news is that all white wines work well with cheese, but some pairings come closer to perfection than others. You can start with the white wine you like best from the list below, and follow our recommendations for the best cheese to serve with them.

Chardonnay: Chardonnay is a popular and versatile white wine and it pairs well with a range of cheeses. Its buttery oak-aged versions go nicely with creamy and soft cheeses like Brie or Camembert. Some people prefer unoaked Chardonnay, and you can couple this up with goat cheese and some of the hard cheeses.

Chenin Blanc: Chenin Blanc's versatility allows it to pair with a wide range of cheeses. It can complement creamy cheeses like Gouda or Swiss, as well as harder cheeses like Cheddar.

Pinot Grigio: Pinot Grigio is a light and crisp Italian-style wine that pairs well with lighter cheeses like mozzarella, fresh goat cheese or ricotta.

Riesling: Riesling's sweetness and acidity make it an excellent choice for spicy or salty cheeses, such as blue cheese or Gorgonzola. It also goes well with semi-soft cheeses like Havarti or Muenster.

Sauvignon Blanc: Sauvignon Blanc's crisp acidity and herbaceous notes make it a great match for tangy and pungent cheeses such as goat cheese, feta, or cheeses with herbs. It can also complement lighter, milder cheeses like mozzarella.

Viognier: French Viognier's floral and fruity notes make it a good match for semi-soft and semi-hard cheeses like Gruyère, Comté, or Fontina.

Best wine for the cheese board

Because a cheese board usually has a variety of cheeses, there’s no one wine that will go best. If in doubt, go with a wine that’s most versatile, either red or white (you could use the season as your guide). For reds, this means something medium-bodied and not too challenging on the palate, like a Bordeaux or Merlot. An unoaked Chardonnay Chablis will be a good white wine bet as the Chardonnay grape is an excellent all-rounder.

What wine goes with the cheese board?

Here’s a selection of wines that are all easy on the palate and go well with cheeses that might feature in a cheeseboard:

  • Bordeaux suits ripe Brie.
  • Sweet or fortified reds like port are great with blue cheese.
  • Hard cheeses like Manchego or Pecorino go well with compatriots Rioja or Barolo.
  • Sauvignon Blanc makes a good match for goat's cheese and feta.
  • Chablis combines well with Cheddar and Comté

What about rosé and sparkling wine?

If you’re a fan of rosé wine, you can still enjoy your favourite tipple along with cheese. Try pairing rosé with young cheeses like feta, mozzarella, Cheddar, and baby Swiss.

Sparkling wines can also get a look-in at wine and cheese events. Champagne, Prosecco or Cava can be surprisingly versatile with food. They tend to have high acidity and effervescence, which can cut through the richness of many cheeses. Try pairing them with creamy cheeses, aged Gouda, or even Parmesan.


Wine and cheese pairings are one of the delights of the food world. As the French have known for centuries, the two treats play upon the characteristics of the other to bring out the best tastes in both. As a rule of thumb, pair full-bodied wines with mature hard cheeses, and lighter wines with younger, creamier cheeses. Sipping wine before nibbling cheese gives the best effect.

At Cheshire Cheese Company, we have cheese and red wine gift boxes for perfect nights in, and Cheese and Wine hampers that make ideal gifts all year round. You can also pair your favourite wine with over a dozen delicious cheese truckles, delivered straight to your door. 

If you’d like to continue exploring the wonderful world of cheese with us, check out our Cheshire Cheese Club - no catches or commitments, just a lifetime of discounts and special offers along with our exclusive member's newsletter. Click here to find out more and sign up.