Often revered as a true delicacy – with varieties that appeal to people with all taste preferences – cheese is a much-loved indulgence here in Melbourne. And, it doesn’t get much better than pairing it with alcohol. But, with so many different types of alcohol around it can be hard to know where to start. Well, being a premium Melbourne-based bus hire company, we’ve done our fair share of travelling and have decided to impart some fundamental tips for pairing cheese and alcohol. Before we begin, it’s important to remember the number one rule of pairing – everyone has different tastebuds and it’s all a journey to discover what you prefer personally.
Cheese & wine
There is a staggering amount of wine out there and finding the one that’s right for you will take trial and error. Some people prefer to not spend time doing that and prefer to just dive right in with a tried and true pairing. So, let’s cover red, white and sparkling wine varieties broadly and how they pair with cheese.
Red wine is commonly thought of as a no-brainer when it comes to cheese pairing – however, this isn’t necessarily the case. Nick Haddow, a Tasmanian cheese expert and business owner, has suggested that the tannin (which is often quite high in red varieties) is not a good match for the awesome flavours that accompany a good cheese.
He suggests that lighter-bodied, cool-climate varieties are better suited to be paired with soft cheeses – like pinot noirs. This is because full-bodied wines are often so robust and intense that they can often overpower the cheese. If you are to have full or medium-bodied reds with cheese then opt for hard, pungent options such as cheddar or pecorino.
Because of the lower levels of tannin and alcohol in white wine, it is often revered as the better partner for cheese. Soft and rich cheeses like brie or camembert go nicely with chardonnay’s – but be sure they’re not too heavily oaked or full-bodied. Sauvignon blanc is a variety that pairs quite nicely with goat’s cheese whilst riesling is well suited to feta and mozzarella.
Sparkling & champagne
Sparkling wines are the favoured pairings on both ends of the spectrum – young, light cheeses to aged, blue cheeses. The acidity and bubbles actually cleanse your palate – paving the way for the next bite. It is these bubbles that also bring out the fruity essences in a brie or the bold flavours in blue cheese such as stilton. Consider pairing some quality prosecco with creamy cheeses and champagne with hard or aged cheese – which will bring out the nutty nuances.
Fortified and dessert
Fortified and dessert wines like port and topaque are traditionally well-suited to blue cheeses (especially port) due to the strong flavours on both ends – but can also be indulged with pairings of harder cheeses.
Whisky & bourbon
Commonly associated with cigar pairings – both single malt scotch whiskies and bourbons are full of incredible flavours that must be drunk just right to appreciate them. Most varieties require a bit of water to open up the flavours and allow your tastebuds to truly enjoy what’s on offer (as well as preventing them from being burnt and spoiling the rest of your drink/meal).
A nice brie (baked or otherwise) pairs specifically well with bourbon – which is generally a much sweeter spirit compared to whisky – and will really emphasise the oak and fruity notes of the bourbon. For light, soft cheeses, a smooth and understated whisky is recommended so neither one overpowers the other. When it comes to peated whisky’s such as those from Islay, smoky cheeses are your best bet.
With beer (and especially craft beers) having become such an important part of Melbourne culture (our bus hire service is always discovering new breweries around) in the last few years you’ll be pretty hard-pressed not to find a beer and cheese that go together. Blues like gorgonzolas pair nicely with strong stouts whereas Belgian wheat beers blend beautifully with the creaminess of goat’s cheese. Looking for something to pair with your favourite local IPA? Try a cheddar and let the sharpness combine with the hops of the IPA.
Cider is an often-underappreciated beverage that works quite well with a good cheese. It’s also a great alternative to the standard wine or whisky pairing. If you’re looking for a partner for your creamy, soft cheese – dry sparkling cider might be just for you as it delivers a refreshing taste and combination. If cheddar or hard cheese is more your taste – then consider a tannic cider to complement it.
Are you looking for a bus hire service in Melbourne?
Melbourne on the Move is your best chance at exploring all our wonderful state has to offer with experienced drivers and a fleet of comfortable busses. Once restrictions ease – you’re going to want to organise a winery or brewery tour with your friends where you can impress them with the knowledge you’ve gained from this article. So, why not do it the right way and organise transportation beforehand so you can enjoy the experience fully.