Since we're located inside a wine store, it's only natural to talk about how to pair your cheese with wine, beers or spirits!
Not a drinker? No worries -- we'll share some great food and non-alcoholic pairings too.
The most important 'rule' when it comes to pairings is that it all comes down to your personal palate. Just because someone says something tastes good together, doesn't necessarily mean you'll feel the same way! So take the following tips and tricks with a grain of salt and follow your tastebuds!
Wine & Cheese Pairing
Match made in heaven! Wine and cheese have been known to go together forever! But there are some general rules that can make your wine and cheese pairing go from good to GREAT!
Firstly, always choose your food first, and THEN choose your wine to pair with it. Food affects the taste of the wine more than the other way around.
Many people know about acidic wines, but cheese can definitely be acidic too! When you eat a cheese that makes your mouth feel dry and tingly, that's considered an acidic cheese! Things like aged cheddars, goats cheeses and sometimes even blues are common acidic cheeses.
Acidic wines can follow two general rules of thumb:
Acidic wine gets softened by sweetness in foods
Acidic wine works well with acidic foods
Seems counterintuitive that acid + acid = awesome, but it's true!
Try out a really old cheddar with your acidic wine next time.. and you'll be impressed with how great it tastes!
Sweet wines will taste less sweet in the presence of sweet foods. If you have a really sweet wine, maybe avoid fruit-flavoured cheeses or jellies with your cheeses to accentuate the flavours of both. On the flip side, sweetness in wine is augmented by sour foods (such as citrus + Riesling). Depending on the flavour profile you're looking for in your meal or snack, making sure to balance the sweetness will definitely give you a good step forward.
Acid + Sweetness
Which is more acidic - a lemon or an orange?
Surprise! It's actually the orange. But we don't really notice it because there's also a lot more sugar in an orange, whereas a lemon has next to no sugar.
This makes determining how acidic/sweet your wine is a little harder, but as a general guideline you can always refer to your Residual Sugar Scale when shopping for wine. If you're at the LCBO you'll see it on the tag on the shelf, but if you're at Homecraft we can help you customize your desired level of sweetness. It's usually listed as a number of grams per L, ranked like this:
XD (extra dry) - <5g/L
D (dry) - 5-15g/L
OD (off-dry) 15-25g/L
M (medium) 25-45g/L
S (sweet) 45-75g/L
XS (extra sweet) 75+ g/L
Keep in mind though, that aciditiy in the wine will change your perception of the sweetness.
The alcohol percentage in wine can also affect your palate when pairing with food.
High alcohol wines can augment bitterness, saltiness, and sourness in foods
High alcohol will increase the sensation of spice and add bitterness to spicy foods
But also, higher alcohol means more flavour! If you think about the process of making wine, you're fermenting sugars with natural yeasts, and the by-product of that is alcohol. The more time and fuel you give the yeast to do its thing, the more time the flavours have to develop!
Tannins are a type of molecule that are present in the skins of grapes. Red wine is generally made with the skins during the fermenting process, and without skins when fermenting whites. This means that most red wines will have a tannic element, and white wines generally do not.
Tannins in wine will:
Be less noticible when consumed with proteins (think red wine + steak!)
Be more noticible when consumed with salty foods
Reduce bitterness and sweetness in foods
This is why it's best to choose your food first and your wines after!
Oak is the salt and pepper of the wine world - it can elevate bold flavours to make them even tastier, but can easily overpower softer, delicate flavours. Oak pairs best with similar tasting foods, such as toasty, nutty, caramel type flavours.
Oaky wines like: butter, fat and spice
Oaky wines do not like: light/delicate foods, raw foods (ceviche/sushi) or salty foods
One final piece of advice that I have for you (especially if reading the above was a little too much for you) is the rule of:
If it grows together it goes together!
Wines and cheeses both from similar regions in Italy are going to taste awesome together! Same goes for Canada, France, South Africa or Japan.
Overall, drinking wine that you like and eating food that you like together is never a bad thing! Take the time to enjoy your cheese and wine and the company you share it with instead of being too fussy over rules. These are just some general guidelines to help you out if you need some inspiration to try something new!
Beer & Cheese Pairing
Although not a typical pairing, there are some cheeses and beers that go fantastic together! Nothing sounds better to me than sitting in the sun, sipping on an ice cold beer and nibbling on some cheddars.
Beer can have some great, complex flavours and its carbonation actually works very well with cheese, as it can cut through the richness of most cheeses. Beers that have more of a caramel taste even goes well with heavier, bolder cheeses.
Pairing beers with cheeses isn't quite as complex as pairing with wine, but there are a couple good rules of thumb to follow:
Mild cheeses go best with mild beers. To taste the simpler nuances of cheeses and the beer, you don't want one to overpower the other. Keep it simple!
Bolder cheeses go best with bolder beers. Beer such as pale lager, brown ales and even a heavy barley wine can stand up to some of the riper, older cheeses that generally have a stronger flavour. The higher alcohol percentages can bounce off of bitterness/sourness/saltiness in the cheese, and can give you a really interesting pairing too!
Blue cheese pairs best with fruity beers. I mean, all cheese loves fruit, but blues especially. Bring out your sweet and fruity craft creations with a nice blue! Also, hoppier beers tend to take the edge off of blue cheese and can really bring out the floral notes.
Try out these matches and see what you think!
Hoppy lager or IPA with blue cheese or a sharp cheddar
Brie (or other soft, white mold cheeses) with a pale lager
Aged cheese with a pale lager
Spirits & Cheese Pairing
Wine and cheese pairing is a given, and beer and cheese is generally accepted, but that leaves an entire category of drinks un-paired!
Spirits, liqueurs, and cocktails aren't as popularly associated with cheese, but probably should be!
The Manual, an online news source, spoke to bartenders on their favourite hard-booze-and-cheese-combinations, and here is what they said:
Smoked Gouda and High-Rye Bourbon
Bourbon whiskey has a delicate sweetness and smokiness, which matches beautifully with salty cheeses that have nuanced taste notes. Smoked gouda gives a familiar flavour profile, and its richness gets cut by the alcohol in the whiskey, making a beautiful match.
Feta and Blanco Tequila
There's a reason why a stiff margarita feels like the perfect way to wash down a plate of nachos - tequila and cheese make for a harmonious union! Agave spirits work well with cheese because of their complex layers of flavours; from grassy minerals to peppery spice to tropical fruit and candied sweetness, there are so many flavours to potentially pair with. Feta, being a very bright and salty cheese, compliments the tequila in a very refreshing way.
Camembert and Calvados
Both hailing from the Normandy region of France, Calvados brandy and camembert are a perfect example of what grows together goes together. In France, this is an iconic pairing that brings out the notes of honey, dried apricot, stewed apple, wild mushrooms and toasted onions in both the cheese and the brandy.
Cheddar and Spiked Apple Cider
When it comes to the winter months and you're not out on the patio all afternoon, sometimes a hot apple cider just hits the spot. Adding a nice Vodka to your apple cider will warm you up in more ways than one! The sweetness from the cider and the vodka will cut through the sharpness of the cheddar, and is a perfect combo for cozy fall or winter evenings. I hear some people put cheddar cheese in their apple pies too.. but I'm not so sure about that one....
At the end of the day, there are so many different elements in spirits and liqueurs, and the same goes for cheese! Although it's not necessarily the most common thing to pair together, it has the potential to be one of the better pairing options out there.
Give it a try, and let me know what your favourite combination was!
Non-Alcoholic Drinks & Cheese Pairing
Not a drinker? Not a problem! A lot of the concepts that we see when pairing alcoholic drinks can be applied to non-alcoholic drinks as well. Here are some tips to have a nice, sober evening but that can be just a delicious - if not more so!
Tea and cheese might sound like a weird pairing, but surprisingly enough, tea has a lot of the same qualities as red wine! A really herbaceous, earthy tea will have a lot of tannins, which are also present in almost all red wines. Aged teas, such as Oolong or Pu'er from China can definitely hold their own against some aged Cheddars or Goudas. If you prefer lighter, frutier teas, they'll pair beautifully with lighter, softer cheese such as Brie, Goat Cheese or even blues!
Yes, you read that right! Cheese and chocolate are pretty good friends, and they do work well together, but blue cheese and hot chocolate are best friends. Especially if you go for a darker hot chocolate, where you get a balance of richness, sweetness and borderline bitterness.
If you make your own lemonade at home, cut back on the sweetness a little bit and add something herbal - lavendar, rosemary or thyme are awesome options - and you'll have the perfect drink to pair with some light cheeses! Brie, goats cheese or even a very mild cheddar will accentuate the acidity and herbaceousness of the lemonade, and you'll have an awesome pairing!
Carbonated Flavoured Water
Similar to the lemonade, a flavoured water's fruitiness will pair very well with most cheeses - but when you add the carbonated element to it, it can cut through some of the fattier, richer cheeses too! Try a fruity carbonated water with some aged cheddar or gouda, or something light and fresh like a brie or goat cheese! There's a lot more wiggle room with this drink, because it's a great balance between being mild and bold that is sure to work with most cheeses! Elderflower cordial would also be an awesome option.
Just as with any pairings - food or drink - the best rule of thumb is to drink and eat what you like! Just because I told you something's a good match, doesn't necessarily mean it'll work with your preferences and palate. Experiment! Try new things! See what you can come up with.
Food & Cheese Pairings
While everyone has their favourite way to use cheese in recipes and on charcuterie boards, there are some classic pairings that are definitely notable!
Fruit and cheese are best friends - you can almost always eat some fruit with cheese and it will elevate the flavours of both! Here are some common pairs:
Apples and cheddar or brie
Blue cheese and berries
Pears and cheddar
Peaches or nectarines with soft, bloomy cheeses such as Brie
Figs or dates with aged cheeses
Old, crumbly cheeses (such as Parmigiano Reggiano) and grapes
There is no hard or fast rule - get yourself some nice cheese and pair it with whatever fruit you already have at home!
Spreads, such as jams, jellies, chutneys or salsas are another fantastic way to elevate your cheeses. They can be either sweet or savoury, and are especially awesome with drier cheeses, such as aged cheddars or goudas. When trying to put together a specific pairing, try to find spreads that have a similar flavour note to your cheeses. Bacon marmalade is both sweet and smoky, and will blend well with the slight sweetness of a mild, soft cheese. Red pepper jelly has a nice spicy kick, so pairing it with something that can handle the intensity but can also mellow it out a little, such as a brie or cheddar, will also be a great mix! There are some incredible spreads out there, so don't be afraid to try something new!
I consider things like crackers, breads, crostinis or flatbreads to be a vessel to consume cheese. Sometimes you need something to physically hold your cheese, and there's lots of ways to switch it up! Try some bold, flavoured crackers, or a toasted piece of crusty Italian bread to carry your cheese. If you have a very bold cheese, aim for a cracker or toast that is milder in flavour to really accentuate your cheese.
While you may not necessarily see raw vegetables on a charcuterie board, there are many other ways you can use your cheeses. If you have a nice, hard, aged cheese, try grating it on your roasted vegetables just before they finish cooking! For soft cheeses, try mixing some into mashed potatoes or pieces on a salad.
The great Italian favourite, I think every pasta deserves to have some beautiful cheese! Whether it's grated on top or melted into a sauce, pasta is a fantastic way to show off your favourite cheeses.
I guess this could have been a subsection under vegetables, but I think pickles deserve their own shining moment! Pickled vegetables give an awesome, bright acidity to foods and cheese is no exception! Generally, acidic things pair best with other acidic things. Try a pickle or an olive with a nice, sharp cheddar for a zingy bite!