How to pair cheese and wine?

Cheese and wine are a timeless pairing, but picking the best combinations can be tricky when there are so many options. Of course, it’s important to start with flavours you like, but a little expert knowledge can go a long way when it comes to picking a cheese that will amplify the flavours of your favourite wine, or conversely, a complementary wine to pour with a cheese you love.

When pairing any food and drink, there are three major routes you can go down. You can find flavours that are contrasting, complementary or bridging. Contrasting flavours create balance by bringing opposing tastes and flavours together, such as a salty blue cheese with a sweet, fruit-forward wine, while a complementary pairing creates balance by amplifying shared flavour compounds – think a full-bodied chardonnay with a rich, creamy cheese. A bridging pairing links unique shared aromas in the food and wine, for instance linking the grassy, earthy qualities of goat’s cheese with a wine with spicy, herbaceous notes. Bridging pairings highlight one shared overriding flavour or element rather than being 100% complementary.

Our Billy Button Cellar Doors are renowned for the range of local and imported cheeses, there’s almost as much choice as there are different varietals of wine! A visit to either Bright or Myrtleford is a popular way to taste your way through different flavour combinations to either enjoy eating in, or to take away to savour at home. To guide you through the abundance of local and imported cheeses at our Billy Button Cellar Door, our Bright Cellar Door Manager Grant Williams shares his top ways to pair wine and cheese  that you can try when you next visit us. The only hard part will be deciding which one to go for!

What wines are best to pair with cheese?

Billy Button Barbera with cheese

Here are Grant’s cheese and wine pairings using local and imported cheeses and Billy Button Wines. Read on to find out what to drink with the best cheese in the world!

  • Soft Creamy Cow’s Milk Cheeses

“The Peaks Artisan Cheese is the main local cheese we sell,” says Grant. “The cheesemaker Vanessa also works at the Billy Button Bright and Myrtleford Cellar Doors, and all of her cheeses are incredible.”

Bon Accord is her creamy cow’s milk Brie-style cheese. It’s thinly rinded with a delicate white mould, and the texture is fudge-like in the centre and oozing closer to the rind. Grant suggests pairing aromatic wines with this cheese, such as the Billy Button Riesling or Pinot Blanc to bridge the sweet milky notes of the cheese. “Pinot Blanc is the lesser-known cousin to Pinot Gris with crisp fruit and a little acid.”

He also suggests fuller-bodied whites to complement the creamy texture of the cheese. “The Italian varietal Malvasia is one of those bigger textural mouthfeel wines. And then you can’t go past having a classic Chardonnay with a creamy cheese. The creamy texture from lees maturation in Chardonnay makes it complementary to the rich, oozy cheese.”

If you are a red wine drinker, Grant suggests pairing lighter style reds to contrast with the voluptuousness of the cheese. Try the Billy Button Rosso or Refosco, a light style like a Pinot Noir that also has characteristics of Shiraz.

  • Pungent Washed Rind Cheese

Mountaineer is another of Grant’s favourite cheeses from The Peaks, as it pairs with many of the Billy Button wines. This alpine-style cheese is a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese matured between 3-4 months with a subtle washed rind. It’s at once sweet and savoury with an aromatic rind and a rich creamy texture. You can serve it on a cheese board or do as the Swiss do and melt it over potato and cornichons in the style of a Raclette.

“If serving this cheese on a cheeseboard, you can’t go past our non-vintage Wildflower Prosecco and Grüner Veltliner, which stems from Austria as the native grape variety. The crisp citrussy tang of both the bubbles and the still wine are a great contrast to the nuttiness, creaminess and mild fruit character of Mountaineer.”

And for the red wine drinkers? “As far as reds go, you’re looking at the Spanish varietal Tempranillo with deep red fruits and spice, and Barbera, an Italian grape with plum and cherry aromas. Barbera is a ‘with’ or ‘without food’ wine, so it’s great to have with a nibble or on its own!”

  • Blue Cheese

This is where we meet the World Champion Cheese! Rogue River Blue from Rogue Creamery in Oregon, USA, won Best Cheese in the World out of 3008 cheeses, winning in every single category. And you are lucky enough to be able to try it at the Billy Button Cellar Door – that’s if you get in before it sells out (which is does regularly!).

“It’s often surprising for visitors to discover this American cheese being served here in the Alpine Valleys, but it has won trophies at the World Cheese Championships and is always a winner,” says Grant.

This specific cheese only comes out once a year, and the last delivery sold out in less than a month. Rogue Creamery cheesemaker Tom Vella only makes his cult cheese on the autumn solstice using organic milk and it comes wrapped in shiraz leaves soaked in pear liqueur.

“It is like no other blue cheese,” says Grant. “The pear liqueur-soaked Shiraz leaves give it a sweet characteristic that enable it to be paired with more wines than a typical blue cheese. The beauty of Rogue River Blue is that you can pair it with a full bodied or tannic structured red.”

If the Rogue River Blue isn’t available when you visit, Grant suggests substituting with another creamy blue cheese. “Something like Cashel Blue from Tipperary in Ireland would be a good alternative as it’s not overly salty. It’s creamy and has a sweetness about it.”

For a fuller bodied red, Grant suggests the Billy Button Shiraz or Aglianico. The drier red styles he recommends are those with more tannins, such as the Billy Button Sangiovese or Nebbiolo.

Grant says that as a general rule for pairing wine with salty cheeses such as cheddar, Parmesan and blue cheese, look towards sweet, fruit-driven wines, which act in the same contrasting way that quince paste or fig paste do on a cheeseboard.

  • Mountain and Alpine Cheese

Comté Symphonie is a delicious cheese available at the Billy Button Cellar Door that is aged for 24 months in limestone caves in the south of France. It’s textural with strong earthy, nutty, sweet nuances. The luscious, nutty flavours come from the sweet cow’s milk, while the texture comes from little crunchy calcium lactate and salt crystals that develop during the cave aging. “As it warms up, it has a gorgeous sweetness,” says Grant.

Grant says this bold cheese is best paired with Shiraz and bubbles – both red and white. “Our sparkling Shiraz Tempranillo that is bottle fermented would be a great match. I couldn’t believe it, we sold out of this wine last year it was so popular, but we have more being disgorged this year.”

As far as white wines go, Grant suggests Billy Button Verduzzo, an Italian varietal often referred to as ‘the red drinker’s white’. “This is a rare variety from Friuli in north-east Italy, and a couple of local guys grow it here at Buffalo Creek. Because Comté is a bold cheese, you need wines with a more textural mouthfeel to complement it,” says Grant.

  • Goat’s Cheese

Goat’s cheese has an astringency and fresh acidity that is best offset with white wines with minerality and herb and spice notes. To go with the variety of goat’s cheeses available, Grant suggests wines that will cut through the acidity of the cheese.

When it comes to goat’s cheese, Grant’s top pick is Chebris, a mild, semi-firm cheese that is 50/50 unpasteurised sheep and goat milk. “It’s rich and super creamy with a soft delicate mouthfeel and doesn’t have astringency that most people relate to goat and sheep milk.” Grant suggests serving this cheese with three of Billy Button’s whites. Pinot Gris – look out for the 2021 vintage (as the 2019 is sold out); Drumborg Gewürztraminer, “a serious, elegantly perfumed and refined, compared to playful floral varieties”; or the Billy Button Fiano, “which has green melon, a little bit of herb and spice notes, and is textured on the palate, with a slightly oily mouthfeel.”

There are a range of goat’s cheeses available at Billy Button Cellar Door to cater to all tastes. Monolith is an ash-rolled goat’s cheese from The Peaks and Grant recommends it with any of the above wines. “The reason they roll goat’s cheese in ash is to neutralise that acidity and astringency,” says Grant. “For hardcore goat’s cheese fans, we also have a plain goat’s cheese log from France, which has more astringency as it’s not rolled in ash.”

How to prepare the perfect cheese board?

Cheese board with meats, seafood, olives and nuts

Here are some tips and tricks to serve the ultimate cheese board, from how to prepare your cheese to picking the perfect accompaniment.

  • Prepare your cheese

“Because cheese is a living thing, it’s best to do your cheese platter about 30 minutes before serving to take the chill of the cheese,” says Grant. This allows the cheese to ‘wake up’, which will enhance the flavour and texture (especially if you are serving soft cheeses, as they will be too firm straight from the fridge).

  • Don’t forget the accompaniments

Grant’s foolproof cheeseboard accompaniment from the Cellar Door is a jar of baby figs marinated in rum, cloves, cinnamon, orange and sugar. “They go great with so many cheeses, especially blue cheese, and all of your cheddars” says Grant.

Another favourite is Zumami Asian-style chilli jam made in Moss Vale, NSW, which contains apricots, dried chillies, tamarind, star anise, garlic, cinnamon and fish sauce. “It’s surprisingly great with goat’s, blue cheese and Comté,” says Grant.

He also recommends a locally made Sangiovese jelly, which brings rich gem hues to any cheeseboard, regardless of what wine you are serving. If you want to keep it simple, Grant says dried apricots or slices of firm Corella Pear will also do the trick.

  • Make a meal of it

Take your cheeseboard to the next level with the addition of charcuterie. You’ll find a selection of locally made cured meats and seafood at the Billy Button Cellar Door and Grant says more is more when it comes to designing the ultimate cheeseboard. “Add some meat – pear, prosciutto and a bit of cheese is just amazing!”

So, what’s on offer? “We have fennel and garlic salami, free-range prosciutto, wagyu pastrami, bresaola, chorizo and salami al prosciutto – a clever product made from all the off-cuts of prosciutto with added pistachio. It’s amazing,” says Grant.

Cured seafood is also a good match to serve alongside cheese and Grant recommends adding white Spanish anchovies, or the salmon and trout pate sourced from the nearby Mountain Fresh Trout & Salmon Farm in Harrietville. Don’t forget the cornichons!

  • Choose a wine to complement or contrast

At Billy Button, we have more than 23 different varieties of wine, so you’ll find something for whatever mood you are in. Start with either a wine you love or a cheese you feel like eating, then use our guide above to pick something that will complement, contrast or enhance the flavours. Bon appetit!

 

Taste for Yourself – Come and Visit Us!

Are you ready to try some cheese and wine? We look forward to welcoming you at either our Bright or Myrtleford Cellar Door. Both are stocked with a range of delicious cheese and artisan products on offer, not to mention all of the regional wines for you to discover. Our Bright Cellar Door was awarded 2020 Gourmet Traveller WINE, Star Cellar Door and Best Small Cellar Door in Alpine Valleys, and our Myrtleford Cellar Door has now been open for a year with lots of new experiences to discover.

 

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