Cheese and wine - does it really work?

Cathy Marston ponders over this 'perfectly matched' pair.

15 Sep 2010
cheese and wine

In the 70’s cheese and wine parties were all the rage along with orange flares, hostess trolleys and dodgy haircuts. Thankfully the trolleys and fashion disasters seem consigned to the bin but the idea persists that cheese and wine are a match made in heaven.

But I just don’t know if this is true. I went to an event at Durbanville Hills winery last week to celebrate the launch of their Season of Sauvignon Festival and try many of the new releases with some fine Simonsberg cheese. The wines were great, the cheeses were great – together, in my opinion, they were a disaster!

The problem according to food-matching guru Katinka van Niekerk, is that cheeses often ‘have a strong taste and are pungently aromatic; they can have a high fat, salt or acid content and some have a sticky texture which coats the tastebuds. All of these challenging features spell trouble when it comes to pairing cheese with wine.’ In her book, ‘The Food and Wine Pairing Guide’ she suggests a series of points to note when you are trying to make your pairings which include:

· Consider the acid of the cheese and make sure you pair it with an equally acidic wine – this is why goats’ cheese and Sauvignon Blanc is such a good pairing.

· Check the tannins – most cheeses object to strong tannins in red wines so try softer, older styles or white wines.

· Salty and pungent cheeses such as blue cheese suit sweet wines best of all – balance the sweet and salt for a perfect match.

· Be careful what other sweet things you serve with your cheese – green figs, watermelon preserve, chutney all go great with cheese, but will clash with dry wines. Again, sweet wine is best.

· Protect the wine – it probably cost more than the cheese! Also, since cheese is the dominant flavour, it is unlikely to be affected by a bad wine match, but an unwise cheese can make a wine taste dreadful.

At my event last week, I discovered that the Simonsberg Cambrini, which was beautifully ripe, truffley, gooey and delicious, made all the Sauvignons taste corked – and they were all screwcapped wines! However, when I took the tub of Cream Cheese flavoured with Blue Cheese home, stuffed it into a chicken breast and wrapped it in bacon, my husband pronounced it ‘divine’ with the Durbanville Hills Chardonnay we drank with it.  Different strokes……

If you want to go and try out some combinations for yourself, then head out to the Seasons of Sauvignon Festival at all the wine farms in Durbanville from Saturday 2nd to Sunday 3rd October. They’ve got activities for young and old, lots of music, lots of tastings, lots and lots of food including all the Simonsberg cheeses and plenty of great wine, particularly all the new releases of Sauvignon Blanc – all the details are on And I hope you find your perfect cheese and wine match made in heaven on the way.

Do you have a favourite cheese and wine combination? Tell us your ideal match made in heaven!


Read more on: cathy marston  |  cheese  |  wine  |  wine pairing

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