Sunday mornings and sleep-ins; coffee and croissants; wine and cheese. These are some of life's most pleasurable combinations, and while executing the first two is relatively simple, the third can leave some people feeling a little daunted. We’re here to help, so we asked our head chef Suthat what the most important things to remember are when it comes to pairing wine and cheese.
'The main rule of thumb is that your wine and cheese should be at the same level of flavour and texture,' says Suthat. Put simply, this means the lighter, softer styles of wine will work well with cheeses with subtle flavours, and bold, full-flavoured wines need a cheese that can hold its own. Keeping this in mind is the safest way to ensure your combination will complement each other.
As for serving suggestions, Suthat recommends keeping it simple. 'I’m not a big fan of adding dried fruit, nuts and other things to your platter, as it can end up taking away from the main event,' he says. 'If you go overboard, you may lose the two most important flavours: the cheese and the wine.'
Some crackers and a quality quince paste is all you need to complete your after dinner treat. And with that said, here are a few of Suthat's favourite pairings.
Goat's cheese and sauvignon blanc
Goat's cheese tends to be fresh and creamy with a sweet tang, pairing beautifully with a crisp glass of sauv blanc. The wine's tropical fruit flavours help reveal a nutty flavour in the cheese and the zippy acidity matches the tang. Most importantly, they’re both quite light, so neither outweighs the other. A glass of sauv also hits the spot with a goat's cheese dish: Suthat’s go-to is a beetroot salad with goat's cheese, or moreish arancini balls.
Brie cheese and vintage brut
Brie and sparkling wine is a match made in cheese-lover's heaven. 'Brie cheese is creamy and rich, so I love to match it with bubbles', says Suthat. 'Take our vintage brut, which has almond praline notes and a lovely toastiness. It enhances the Brie’s earthy, mushroomy flavour and the sharp acidity cuts through the fat. We're particularly fond of Tarago Rivers’ Triple Cream Brie from Gippsland, and often serve it at Café Blue [at the Blue Pyrenees cellar door].'
Aged cheddar and cabernet sauvignon
A bold cheese like cheddar needs a powerful wine like cabernet sauvignon to stand up to it. 'Aged cheddar and cab sauv work so well together because they both have big flavours with a lot of depth,' says Suthat. 'Cheddar is bitey and rich, as is a full-bodied, tannic wine like cabernet.' And when it comes to cheddar, the rule is that the longer it's been aged, the sharper the bite. Our pick is a 24-month aged cheddar from Warrnambool, which makes the perfect savoury pairing post-dinner, particularly with good conversations and great company.
Blue cheese and Port
Our last pairing suggestion is a real classic embodying the cardinal rule of 'the stinkier the cheese, the sweeter the wine’. Blue cheese is salty, rich and has a pungent aroma, so it needs something that packs an equal punch of flavour. 'Blue goes well with most fortified, sweet sticky wines, but I particularly love how it mixes with the slightly more complex, deep flavours of a Tawny port,' says Suthat.
The Blue Pyrenees Tawny is particularly special to us, as it was the result of a little miracle. The Pyrenees is typically too cold for fortified wines, but a late heatwave in March 2008 ripened our shiraz grapes to such an extreme level that we realised it might be possible to make Tawny. It's not the only fortified wine on offer though, with our Rutherglen muscat being another great option for blue cheese – just think of it as liquid quince paste. And pairing it with a soft, creamy cheese, like Tarago River’s Shadows of Blue? Well, that's one of our favourite things to do.
Now that we’ve steered you in the right direction, it’s time for the fun part: experimenting with different combinations. Grab some wines from our online shop and hit up your local deli while you’re waiting for them to be delivered. Alternatively, why not pay Suthat and the rest of our team a visit at the cellar door? They'll happily sort you out with an unforgettable cheese and wine experience at Café Blue. See you there!