The “Science” of Matchmaking Cheese and Wine

“Pleasure” is one of the first words that come to mind when we think of these two: cheese and wine, or “enjoyment.” The partnerships of cheese and wine have been around for centuries, most of them pleasurable relationships. So when we have cheese and wine (or cheese with any beverage) we are usually not thinking about how or why they mate. We are simply enjoying the wine and cheese: we have a sip of wine then we have a nibble of cheese, then wine, then cheese, etc., without fully contemplating the matching: the balancing and complementary relationships between the cheese and wine. Not to overanalyze it, but sometimes the residue leaves an “off” impression – it seems that some sort of conflict may have occurred. We enjoy a wine type and we enjoy a style of cheese, they may even be produced in the same region, yet they are not getting along, so to speak. I am afraid that most people blame the cheese when those mismatches occur.

Cheese has been so badly maligned for so long; cheese has suffered enough!

It is like a great guy and a great gal; the two may not be meant for each other.

“Pairing” seems to be all the rage these days. More and more restaurants have flights of cheese and wine (or craft beer, or Scotch, etc.) and when people are entertaining guests they often obsess about finding the ideal matches. This is probably one reason why my second book – Cheese, a Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Best – won a James Beard award, its wine pairings included with each cheese.

There are fundamental principles of pairing foods and beverages that can be applied to pairing cheese and wine. When those principles are considered to their fullest, those pairings often yield some “marriages-made-in-heaven,” or perfect pairings. There is a little science to it. One bit of science may be that when the cheese and wine (or other beverage) pair well aesthetically there may be other neurological benefits derived from careful matchmaking, so there may be some nutritional benefits too.

These pairing principles are applied when we taste cheeses and wines in our Matchmaking class. The class is a little academic but it makes for a thoroughly enjoyable experience; call it “infotainment.”

Max McCalman

Spread the curd!
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