• Morgan Edwards

How to match cheese and wine on a Charcuterie Board

A well-curated charcuterie board is a work of art. When paired with the right wines, that artwork becomes a masterpiece.

But unlike The Sistine Chapel, you don’t need years of work to create an amazing charcuterie board with the perfect wine pairings. Instead, sticking to a few general principles and simple guidelines will make the process a breeze.

Plus, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about cheese…

Basic Charcuterie Board Guidelines

Whether you’re entertaining or making an easy weeknight dinner, charcuterie boards are simple to prepare.

Most charcuterie boards include all or some of the following:

1. Cheese

2. Charcuterie (aka cured and preserved meats)

3. Dried and/or fresh fruits

4. Nuts

5. Olives or other pickled vegetables

6. Bread and crackers

7. Olive oil, honey, jam, mustards or other spreads

Cheese 101

Start by selecting your cheeses. These items will determine what wines you serve. The other components of the board will play a supporting role to the wine, meat, and cheese.

Choose at least three types of cheese. Select a variety of cheeses based on texture, saltiness, fat content, and acidity. Here are a few examples:

• Fresh cheeses like ricotta and chèvre have higher acidity.

• Aged hard cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano taste saltier with stronger flavours.

• Brie and other soft-ripened cheeses have higher fat content.

• If the charcuterie board is being served as an appetizer, account for 2oz of meat per person. But if the board is the main meal, double that number.

• Again, select a variety of charcuterie based on texture, fat, salt, and spice. For example, consider the creamy texture and buttery flavour of pâté compared to hard, salty dry cured salami.

Blue Cheese

Blue cheese can be soft, firm, creamy, or crumbly. Some are sweeter while others are salty. But all blue cheese features blue veins of mould throughout that bring sharp and tangy flavours.

Types of Blue Cheese: Roquefort, Stilton, Gorgonzola

Wine Pairing Styles: aromatic white wine, full-bodied red wine, dessert wine

Wine Pairing Examples: Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Sémillon, Gewürztraminer, Zinfandel, Right Bank Bordeaux, Sauternes

Why it Works: Blue cheese tends to be salty, strong and pungent. So, fruit forward or sweet wines counterbalance the saltiness and strong flavours of the cheese. Full-bodied reds are powerful enough to withstand the strong blue cheese flavours.

Hard Cheese

Hard cheese is typically salty and sharp with nutty flavours, becoming saltier with age. They tend to be crumbly and more challenging to cut.

Types of Hard Cheese: Cheddar, aged Manchego, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, Grana Padano

Wine Pairing Styles: sparkling wine, light-bodied white wine, medium-bodied red wines, full-bodied red wines

Wine Pairing Examples: Champagne, Cava, Vermentino, Cortese, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nero D’Avola

Why it Works: Since these cheeses get saltier with age, they can soften acidity in sparkling wine and light-bodied white wine. The higher salt content also mellows out tannins in medium to full-bodied red wines.

In both cases, the salty cheese enhances the body and fruit notes in the wine.

Semi-Hard Cheese

The semi-hard cheese category includes a broad range of firm cheeses with high moisture content. These cheeses often have salty, nutty, or savoury flavours and become more nuanced with age.

Types of Semi-Hard Cheese: Gouda, Gruyère, Swiss, Emmental, Colby, Provolone, Halloumi

Wine Pairing Styles: sparkling wine, light-bodied white wine, full-bodied white wine, light-bodied red wine, medium-bodied red wine

Wine Pairing Examples: Champagne, Cava, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir

Why it Works: The salty and savoury flavours of the cheese will enhance the fruit aromas of the sparkling and light-bodied white wines. Full-bodied whites have the structure to match these firmer, bolder cheeses.

Surface-Ripened Cheese

Surface ripened cheeses typically have a thin rind around oozy cheese or a wrinkled rind with more firm cheese.

These cheeses typically have a dense creamy texture with earthy aromas. They sometimes show sharper tangy flavours.

Types of Surface Ripened Cheese: Crottin de Chavignol (the most famous goat cheese of the Loire Valley), Vermont Creamery’s Bijou, St. Marcellin

Wine Pairing Styles: light-bodied white wine, aromatic white wine, light-bodied red wine

Wine Pairing Examples: Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Torrontés, Cinsault, Pinot Noir

Why it Works: Crisp, aromatic white wines nicely contrast the dense, creamy texture of these cheeses and highlight the cheeses’ earthy flavours. Light-bodied reds with earthy or spicy aromas will have the same effect.

Soft-Ripened Cheese

Known for a velvety white rind formed with the help of an edible mould called Penicillium candidum. The interior of the cheese becomes creamier and softer as the cheese ages.

A soft-ripened cheese is typically a crowd pleaser on a charcuterie board. The creamy texture provides a great balance to salty charcuterie. Expect buttery, earthy, nutty and tangy flavours.

Types of Soft-Ripened Cheese: Brie, Camembert, Coulommiers, Robiola, Humboldt Fog

Wine Pairing Styles: sparkling wine, light-bodied white wine, full-bodied white wine, aromatic white wine, fruit forward light-bodied reds

Wine Pairing Examples: Champagne, Riesling, Chardonnay, Roussanne

Why it Works: Sparkling wine and light-bodied aromatic white wines have the bright acidity that is a delicious contrast to these luscious cheeses.

Full-bodied whites offer the weight and texture to match the cheeses’ richness. Fruity notes of a light-bodied red with higher acidity will shine when paired with creamy cheeses.

Fresh Cheese

Fresh cheeses offer a range of textures and flavours. They can be fresh and creamy with lightly salted flavours (mozzarella) or crumbly and salty with more tangy flavours (feta).

Types of Fresh Cheese: cream cheese, Chèvre, ricotta, mozzarella, Mozzarella di Bufala, burrata, feta, cottage cheese, Mizithra, Marscapone, Boursin, Stracchino

Wine Pairing Styles: sparkling wine, light-bodied white wine, rosé wine, fruit forward light-bodied red wine

Wine Pairing Examples: Cava, Crémant D’Alsace, Vermentino, Riesling, Provençal rosé

Why it Works: The saltier cheeses will allow the fruit notes of higher acid wines to shine. These wines can also balance the acidity of fresh cheeses. The fresh styles of wine are a lively counterpoint to the creamier cheeses here.

Go forth and pair that wine and cheese!

Charcuterie boards should be easy to prepare, so don’t overthink the process. Select a variety of cheeses and charcuterie. Then, see which wine pairing styles they have in common. Consider which wine will best complement or contrast the salt, fat, and acid in each.

Serving two to three wines with the charcuterie board will ensure there is a wine for every palate.

When all else fails, rely on these two main principles. Sparkling wines, light-bodied white wines, and fruit forward light-bodied reds can pair with most cheeses and charcuterie. And bolder flavours need bolder wines.

Now get out there and wow your friends with your charcuterie pairing skills!

Cheesemongers in Knutsford : The Cheese Yard

Do you have a favourite cheese and wine pairing? We would love to hear about them in the comments below.

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