A new way to look at cheese and drink pairings

Bonus: Blue cheeses make up the fifth quadrant (or should that be quintant?).
Bonus: Blue cheeses make up the fifth quadrant (or should that be quintant?).  Photo: Robin Cowcher

Cheese (and its respective wine pairings) can seem like a daunting amount of information to learn. There are hundreds of types of cheese to know ... and thus hundreds of individual pairings to master. But cheese can be classified neatly in one of four quadrants – with one additional for pairing purposes.

Cheddar and friends

With the cheeses in the other quadrants, acidification and moisture drainage take place consecutively; with cheddar and the like, these processes occur at the same time. This fact makes these styles the most labour- and time-intensive in cheesemaking.

Famous examples: Cheddar, cheshire, lancashire

Vignette: Stories of Life & Wine in 100 Bottles by Jane Lopes.
Vignette: Stories of Life & Wine in 100 Bottles by Jane Lopes. Photo: Hardie Grant Books

Best pairings: Madeira, cider, beaujolais

Alpine cheeses

Alpine cheeses, or "herder cheeses", require vigorous effort over a very short period of time. They were often made by herders or other nomads, people with the opposite lifestyle and demands of the farmer's wife. These cheeses develop a malleable texture that can dry and crystallise with age, and flavours often described as nutty and sweet.

Famous examples: Gouda, gruyere, comte, parmigiano-reggiano

Cheddar and friends.
Cheddar and friends. Photo: Robin Cowcher

Best pairings: Vin jaune, amontillado and palo cortado sherries, white Bordeaux

Lactic cheeses

Lactic cheeses – "farmer's wife cheeses" – are acidic, dense, and flaky. They take longer to make, as the acidity takes time to develop, but don't require a lot of effort throughout the process.

Famous examples: Chevre, Valencay, Epoisses

Advertisement

Best pairings: Loire Valley sauvignon blanc, dry and off-dry riesling, rosé

Creamy cheeses

The low-acid/high-moisture cheeses are the easiest and quickest to make: no acidification needs to occur, and very little moisture needs to be removed. Without the acid promoting calcium dissolution, these cheeses also have the creamiest and smoothest texture.

Famous examples: Mont d'Or, brie, harbison

Pair creamy cheeses with Champagne.
Pair creamy cheeses with Champagne.  Photo: Robin Cowcher

Best pairings: California chardonnay, white Rhone wines, champagne

Blue cheeses

For pairing purposes, we've added a fifth quadrant (quintant?) to encompass blue cheeses. Blue cheese is defined by the addition of the mould Penicillium roqueforti, which becomes an important flavour component. These cheeses can range in terms of acidity and moisture levels, but always have a characteristic saltiness and sharpness.

Famous examples: Roquefort, blue stilton, gorgonzola

Best pairings: Port, Sauternes, Tokaji, peated scotch

This is an edited extract from Vignette: Stories of Life & Wine in 100 Bottles by Jane Lopes, published by Hardie Grant Books RRP $40.Illustrations © Robin Cowcher 2019