Cheese And Wine And Why We Want Them To Combine

ost of us are old enough to remember the retro ‘Cheese and Wine’ party! And although the canapés were usually not exclusive to cheese and rather included all kinds of eatables on a cocktail stick, the term ‘Cheese and Wine’ more than suggested that cheese and wine should be a good combination.

Cheese and wine as a combination were popular before the time of Tupperware parties – they seemed to have been the inspiration of just about all still life paintings … and according to “Napoléon is said to have been partial to [this] cheese (France’s famous Epoisses) and ate it in large quantities with Chambertin wine.”

When winemakers and culinary experts then tell you that the pairing of cheese and wine is more often than not, not ideal, it is quite something to get your head around!

South African expert in Food and Wine Pairing, Katinka van Niekerk, explains: “They don’t. In fact, cheese is one of the trickiest foods to match with wine.” And we should not be surprised! “Many cheeses have a strong taste and are pungently aromatic: they can have high fat, salt or acid content, and some have a sticky texture that coats the taste buds. All these challenging features spell trouble when it comes to pairing cheese with wine.”

There are, however, some cheese and wine pairings that work exceptionally well, such as the trusted combination of Sauvignon Blanc with goat’s-milk cheese (Chevin) and Noble late harvest with Roquefort. We are however often confronted with a variety of cheese and preserves on a platter and only one glass of wine. And while, often, it is more about the party than the pairing, the delight of a beautiful combination, bringing out the best in both the wine and the cheese, is not something to dismiss!

Because we love the romance of cheese and wine, we asked food stylist, recipe developer and writer Vickie de Beer (who now resides in Cheese Country, the Netherlands!) to work with Leopard’s Leap Winemaker Renier van Deventer and Chef Christiaan Visser to help us find a few cheese and wine combinations that work ever so smoothly….

The uncomplicated – Shiraz & Boerenkaas

The classic – Sauvignon Blanc & Goat’s Cheese

The comfort – Bordeaux Blend & Matured Gouda

The cheffy – Sparkling Wine & French inspiration with Feta