Wine and cheese, an inseparable marriage of two great foods. And one that is enjoyed the nation over here in Spain. However, there is a subtle art to creating pairings, especially in a place that offers so many different options of each.
One of the biggest pitfalls I see of matching these foods is that there is this stubborn and persistent expectation that cheese should always be paired with a red wine. This is a fallacy for several reasons: one is that as there are so many different tastes, it is a poor move to simply pair them indiscriminately, and two is that when you get down to the chemistry of it, salt and tannin don’t mix well whatsoever.
I suggest not trying to pair highly cured cheese like manchego with any reds, or any bleu cheeses, as it will kill the taste of both the wine and the food. But that isn’t to say there aren’t good pairings for them, or that no red works out well with any cheese.
- Manchego and Port – Old manchego especially, or curado. The high salt content mixes very well with the sweetness of a port wine. Alternatively, it goes well with richer sherries, anywhere from Amontillado to Palo Cortado.
- Montsec and young Red – if you really do want to have a red with your cheese, goat cheeses from the north of the country work well. But make sure it’s a young red, something soft, and preferably not aged in oak barrels. Often times the bite of a crianza wine or older is too much and overshadows the cheese.
- Sweet whites and smoked cheese – I am a big fan of Albariño in general, and of diametrically opposed tastes, so when I found this suggestion I tried it post haste. Since Albariños are fruity, it does play well off of a smoked cheese. I recommend Idiazábal cheese (native to the Basque Country).
- Sheep’s milk cheese and Cava – Many of the cheeses from the Pyrenees, such as Tupi or Ombra have distinct tastes that linger, and go well with chilled cava, which won’t overpower and thus mask the unique taste of the cheese. Cava is soft enough to compliment, and I recommend semi dry.