6 Major Mistakes You’re Making When Pairing Wine With Cheese

Betty Gold, August 19, 2020 | RealSimple

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Pairing wine with cheese is far from rocket science—even the “wrong” matches will still taste (mostly) stellar. That being said, you didn’t spend who-remembers-how-much on that sommelier-led pairing course last year to be left in the dark when you need the advice—and the brie—most.

Here, we tapped three wine and dairy professionals for the top mistakes people make when matching wine with cheese, plus how to fix them. Because who says you need to host a crowd to fix yourself a fancy, delicious hors d’oeuvres?

Pairing Red Wine With Soft Cheese

According to Laura Werlin, a James Beard Award-winning cheese author, red wine typically has more tannins and low acidity which can cause soft cheeses to taste chalky. Instead, reach for an equally full-bodied, flavorful cheese, such as an aged cheddar, if you must drink a red wine. The tannins act as a palate cleanser, making each bite and sip just as delicious as the last.

Mismatching Intensity and Flavors

Reddit: A guide for pairing wine and cheese. Posted by Ralome
Reddit: A guide for pairing wine and cheese. Posted by Ralome

The pairing rule of ‘like with like’ rings true when pairing wine and cheese. “In general, white wines pair best with lighter, milder cheeses,” says Werlin. This allows the fresh, often fruity notes of the white wine to enhance the sweet creaminess of the cheese. In fact, Werlin suggests pairing most cheeses with white wines. An unoaked Chardonnay pairs well with an alpine-style butterkase or Swiss cheese while Riesling goes with asiago or Parmesan, and Sauvignon Blanc with cheddar or gouda.

Forgetting the Palette Cleanser

“When tasting a variety of cheeses with wine, it is always good to have a palate cleanser,” says Ken Monteleone, owner of cheese shop Fromagination. He recommends Potters wheat or white crackers, water crackers, or bread (like a plain baguette, nothing grainy)—they act like sponges to absorb any lingering flavors. Also, avoid anything flavored or overly salty, as the point is to refresh the palate for each new wine.

Rushing Through Without Savoring the Process

“Before we start a tasting with a variety of our delicious cheeses, we like to open up the taste buds,” says Monteleone. “Pinch your nose and then un-pinch and you will be ready for a wine and cheese tasting.” Remember to savor and taste. “Slow down, look and smell, then taste. Visualize and isolate flavors as you’re tasting. Identify flavors in the wine and the cheese before moving on. Pay attention to texture and body.”

Playing It Safe

Cheese & Wine Flight for 2 – Milk the Cow Licensed Fromagerie

Pairing wine and cheese is all about finding new flavor combinations and having fun. “Try a Wisconsin original cheese, such as Sartori’s Merlot BellaVitano with Fantesca King Richards Reserve Pinot Noir 2018 and Crissante Barolo 2014,” says D Lynn Proctor, director at Fantesca Estate and Winery. “The style, the palate, the texture is simply amazing.” Cheese should take you on an adventure of taste and texture. Get out of your comfort zone by trying something unique like Roelli’s Red Rock, a bright orange Cheddar Blue combination. Bubbles are very forgiving, so a sparkling wine is always a good choice for cheese wildcards. Want another unique idea? Grab some bubbly and pair it with a blue cheese for an unexpected dessert pairing after dinner. The crisp carbonation of the sparkling wine will cut the creaminess of the bold, blue cheese.

Taking the Task Too Seriously

“You’re here to learn and experiment, and not every pairing is going to take the world by storm,” assures Molly Browne, the education manager for Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin and an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional. “The worst thing that you can happen is that you eat something slightly less than delicious, and that’s just motivation to buy more cheese and try again.” And go outside your comfort zone. It’s great to pick one beverage to pair with one wine, but you will learn a lot more from tasting around the board/across the flight. “Once you’ve sampled your intended pairing, push your palate even further by trying an unintentional pairing and seeing what happens.”

Related news

History in the bubbles

History in the bubbles: 105 and still loving her bubbly| Joelle Thomson – 16/12/19

(This item is something of a prelude to our proposed June tasting. It relates to Dawn Ibbotson who is the matriarch of the Ibbotson family who operates Saint Clair)

NB. It was with some sadness that I noted that Dawn passed away on 10 Jan after I had copied this item. Still, 105 is a great knock and enjoying a nice wine right up to the end can’t have been bad. Rest in Peace Dawn.
NB. It was with some sadness that I noted that Dawn passed away on 10 Jan after I had copied this item. Still, 105 is a great knock and enjoying a nice wine right up to the end can’t have been bad. Rest in Peace Dawn.

This month marks the 105th birthday of the woman who inspired one of New Zealand’s best bubblies made using the French traditional method, the same way that champagne is created.

The woman and the wine are called Dawn. The first vintage of Dawn was made from the 2012 vintage to mark its namesake’s 100th birthday in December 2014. Now, Dawn Ibbotson has turned 105 and her family says she enjoys a daily glass of the bubbly they made in her honour.

It’s a top bubbly in taste too, as our instore experts pick it as one of their favourites, year-round.

The wine is made from hand-harvested, whole bunch pressed grapes, which were fermented in a combination of stainless steel (the Chardonnay) and seasoned French oak barriques (the Pinot Noir). The two still wine components were then blended and bottle-fermented for three months to allow the carbon dioxide from the second fermentation to dissolve into the wine, creating its fine bubbles. It was then left on tirage (lees) for thirty-nine months until disgorgement.

Story of the name Saint Clair…bubb

The Ibbotson family who founded Saint Clair Winery named it after the original landowners of their Marlborough vineyards, the Sinclair family. Saint Clair is also the name of a suburb in Dunedin, hometown to the Ibbotson’s and to Dawn.

Dawn is made from…

Vines are grown on stone and sandy alluvial soils on Rapaura Road, Marlborough; overlooked by Saint Clair Vineyard Kitchen. It contains 6 grams of residual sugar per litre; off-dry, but only just, in other words. This wine tastes dry from the first sip to the last, lingering sparkling drop.

Related news

Trade Kitchen – Mid Year Dinner

Your committee found the Trade Kitchen staff to be very accommodating, making the organisation of this dinner easy. The venue worked reasonably well although the noise level in the bigger room made it hard to hear some conversations. The dinner was very enjoyable and the bubbles worked well with the dinner.

It was a good night and people seemed to enjoy it. The committee has received some good feedback about the dinner from attendees. The message seems to be that members like the higher level of the restaurant in town and close to public transport.

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AGM – Looking back on May

The AGM went well. The supper was well received and having bubbles at the supper was a hit. Good feedback was received about the supper and the wine. Your committee was returned unopposed and unchanged. I am sure that this means you are happy with the way that club activities are running. Just remember, we always welcome feedback and/or suggestions from members, so let us know what you are thinking.

Related news

Mid-year Dinner – Logan Brown

mid-year-dinner-logan-brown57a812c61dc4641 members and 7 guests attended the dinner at Logan Brown.

It was a good night out for the most part, but there were some issues. Wayne has emailed Steve Logan to give feedback on the issues which were mainly around time between courses and timing between different tables. Steve has replied to say that the main issue was our large booking plus other customers on the night meaning a fullish restaurant.

We accept that there were difficulties with numbers but felt that an establishment such as Logan Brown should have been able to cope, particularly as they knew the numbers up front.

The Allan Scott bubbles were very good value and the food was wonderful but some of the tables were cramped and there was at least a 60-minute wait between courses for some tables. It appears that the Maître D tried to suit everyone by interspersing our orders between orders from other customers. The staff serving at the tables were fine, and Steve assures us that our custom was valued. We may have to give them another chance to redeem themselves.

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Discounts, dinner, payments & pourers


Great discounts on premium wines

Good grief, less than two months to Christmas, but a couple of great events to round off our 2015 calendar. The Festive wines tasting looks impressive and as mentioned above look for some great discounts on some premium wines. As an example, they will be offering a $45 discount on the Dumangin Vintage 2003.

1841 Bar & Restaurant

1841The December dinner at 1841 Bar & Restaurant should also be fun. It’s great that we can do BYO in a pub environment. We will be away from the general patrons and the menu looks just fine, so don’t be put off, we are going to enjoy ourselves, as we usually do.

Nov bubbles and Dec dinner

We’re getting ready for a busy season with Nov bubbles and Dec dinner.

To show your support, please complete the payment advice form and either pay online or bring the form and payment with you when you come to the November tasting.

This allows us to get a guide on numbers for the dinner. As mentioned on the form, please complete and bring it with you in November. If you can’t attend please send to Wayne as outlined.

20141112_204626Make it easier for pourers

NB, Last month it was suggested that it might be helpful at tastings if people could send their glasses to the centre end of the table to make it easier for pourers. We had some success with this last month and will persist. Please make every effort to make things easier for the pourers.

Robin Semmens, Editor

Related news

Looking Forward – Nov 2014 – Advintage

advintage-logo-headerBlush, bubbles & stickies – Advintage

We will have John Macpherson (Mac), most probably accompanied by John Kemble, for this meeting. I think they enjoy the trip as much as we enjoy having them.

Your committee have asked Mac to refocus on bubbles rather than the wider “Festive Wines” from last year. The evening will probably include a blush bubbly and a sticky as festive with straight bubbles filling out the offering.

We don’t have a list of wines at this point but we are sure that the evening will be the usual high level tasting that our November meeting has followed in past years.

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In the News: Dec 2012

During the bubbly evening several people asked about recipes for a couple of the food items offered. So rather than news, we thought people might be interested in the following:

lemonyoghurtminimuffinsLemon Yoghurt mini muffins

  • 1+3/4 cups sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • rind of 2 lemons
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 cups self raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 – 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup Greek lemon or unsweetened yoghurt

If you have a food processor, use it to mix this, since it eliminates the need for grating the lemons.

Put the sugar into the (dry) bowl with the metal chopping blade then peel all the yellow peel from the lemons, using a potato peeler. Run the machine until the lemon peel is finely chopped through the sugar.

Add the eggs, oil and salt and process until thick and smooth, then add the yoghurt and lemon juice and blend enough to mix. Add the flour after measuring it carefully by spooning it into a cup from the flour packet. Do not shake the cup to pack it down, and do not press it in.

Process just enough to combine the flour with the rest of the mixture. If you are mixing it in a bowl, grate all the coloured peel from the lemons, and beat it with the oil, eggs and sugar ingredients, in the same order as above. Pour the mixture into mini muffin tins. Bake at 180 C for 30 mins or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool before carefully turning out onto a rack.

prawnpatePrawn Pate

  • 250 cooked prawn meat
  • 50g butter
  • 60g cream cheese
  • 1tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 sml garlic clove
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • drop of tabasco sauce

Whiz together, season to taste, refrigerate.

Glancing Back: Dec 2012

A great evening, thoroughly enjoyed by the many who attended with a polished presentation by John MacPherson, ably supported by John Kemble. A lovely selection of  methods and champagnes which included:

  • Cuvee Loraine Blanc de Blanc Brut NV (Quaffer)
  • Villa Sandi il Fresco DOC NV
  • Quartz Reef Brut NV Central Otago
  • Roederer Estate Brut NV
  • Champagne Lanvin Brut NV
  • Champagne Lombard & Cie Brut NV
  • Champagne Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV
  • Champagne Louis Roederer Brut Rose 2007

The Club is indebted to Mac for his generosity in providing many of the wines without cost to us.


From the Editor: Nov 2012

November Bubbly and December Dinner

Thanks to everyone who has responded to the request to let us know if you are attending the following two meetings. Numbers currently stand at 39 for each event.

Our target has been for 50 for Bubbles and 45 for the December Dinner. Anyone who hasn’t responded is welcome to do so, it would be great to have final numbers as soon as possible.

We are happy if you have friends who would like to participate, particularly for Bubbles, but please let me know. If there is too much interest we might have to put a limit on attendance.

Please remember that the Club is looking at ways we might increase membership. If you know anyone who might enjoy wine tasting, please encourage them to give it a try.

Robin Semmens, Editor


Bubbles night with John (Mac) Macpherson from Advintage

advintage-logo-headerNext event – Bubbles night with John (Mac) Macpherson from Advintage

Presenter: John (Mac) Macpherson, Advintage

When you’re a wine store based in the sleepy but ever-so-slightly pretentious Hawkes Bay village of Havelock North (pop. 10,000) and you ship thousands of cases of wine nationwide each month, you must be doing something right. Right? Read the rest for yourselves.

Date: Wednesday November 14, 2012

Time: 7.45pm for 8.00pm

Venue: Johnsonville Community Centre Hall, Johnsonville

Door charge: Members $20, Guests $25


This promises to be one of those rare nights you will talk about to your friends and other members for years.

You will need to book for this tasting.

If you haven’t done so, do it now. Let Robin know by contacting him at semmens@xtra.co.nz.

Recent posts:

Cup Bubbling Over – the Advintage story

Next event, Advintage Nov 2012

Looking Forward – Bubbles and Dinner

Bubbles night with John (Mac) Macpherson from Advintage

From the Editor

Thank you everyone for sending in your responses for this month’s bubbles tasting and the dinner in December. We have closed the numbers for this week’s tasting and all that remains is for you all to come along and enjoy yourselves. There are still a couple of spots left for the Dinner if you wish to come or bring some guests. But you need to let me know ASAP.

Start time is 7:40pm for an 8pm start.

If you are attending either the November or December functions can I ask you to complete the attached form and bring it along with your payment to the November meeting. If you are only able to come to the December dinner, can you either send your payment to Wayne by the 26th November, or pay the money into the club bank account and let Wayne know [full details are on the form]

Thanks … Robin

Looking Forward: Bubbles and Dinner

advintage-logo-headerNovember – Bubbles with John (Mac) McPherson

Still working on the detail for this evening but be assured it will be special. The wines are not yet finalized but we are working on a catering package and looking into the purchase of flutes so that we will not have to rely on others providing them when we have bubbly evenings.

The door price will be the usual $20 for members and $25 for guests. Whilst we plan to cater for nibbles members should ensure that eat before the presentation as this is another evening where the quantity of wine tasted may exceed the average.hazel

December – Christmas Dinner

Wednesday 12 December Hazel Restaurant, Marjoribanks Street, Wellington

It’s time to update everyone on our plans for Christmas. You will see from the menu below that it has some interesting choices that I feel sure will go well with those special wines in your cellar.

The club is planning to provide a small subsidy to your meal as well as providing its customary glass of bubbles when you arrive. The final cost to you will be determined at our next committee meeting, but I can tell you that the entire meal will cost you no more than $55 per head.

Hazel Restaurant have said if our numbers reach a minimum of 45, we’ll be able to have the restaurant to ourselves, so we do encourage you to come along and socialise with your fellow club members. So they can determine whether to continue to block out the restaurant, Hazel are keen to have an early indication of numbers.

Please let us know whether you’re likely to be attending, either by emailing Robin or letting us know at the club’s Bannock Brae tasting next week.

Hazel Christmas Menu


Roasted asparagus, forest mushroom salad with grilled pumpkin, buttered green beans & goat feta

Ginger n’ rock sugar glazed turkey breast, asparagus & grapefruit salad

Beef tenderloin, smoked red onion & sweet pepper, tomato relish

Main Course

Prime pork fillet with smoked nectarine, champagne ham stuffing, blackberry sauce, orange kumara gratin & wilted spinach

Seared salmon fillet with warm potato, confit fennel, pepper salad & almond puree

Prime beef fillet & zucchini fritter, grilled asparagus, baby carrot & sauce bearnaise


Apple mousse with toasted honey syrup apples & blackberries

Hazel Xmas pudding with manuka honey ice cream, praline & vanilla anglaise

Basil pannacotta, kaffir lime flavoured strawberries & lemon mousse

Tea and filter coffee