The best-known cheese from Portugal is Queijo Serra dâ€™Estrela; we call it Serra. As I note in Mastering Cheese, Lessons for Connoisseurship this is the quintessential Portuguese cheese and a great party cheese. Serra is to Portugal as Manchego is to Spain, as ComtÃ© is to France, and Gouda is to Holland. Its popularity and reputation is well deserved; this cheese makes a frequent appearance in our Great Iberian Peninsula events. The aged firmer varieties of Serra provided an efficient source of nutrition for Portuguese sailors centuries ago. On the younger side (which is what we see most often) the Serra is unctuous and buttery, with nutty deep olive oil flavors.
The flavors for the Serras require depth in their wine partners to find the best balance. The cheese happens to be produced near where Portugalâ€™s best known wines are produced â€“ the Portos â€“ most of those being fairly deep wines themselves. The ports and Serras can harmonize rather well but one of the best matches that I have found for this cheese is found in wines that are either 100% Syrah (or Shiraz) or are wines in which that varietal is dominant.
The older Portuguese people appear to prefer their Serras on the more aged side when the cheeses become firmer and more intensely flavored as well as a little saltier. At this age the Serra pairs a little better with the Port wines. Again, we see the Serras arrive here on the younger side so you might look to the Syrah wines for the better match. The Syrahs are known for the jammy qualities and the Serras having their nutty flavors may remind you of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a classic and familiar matching, only better.