Of all the myths passed down through history-Nero fiddled while Rome burned, Elvis is still alive-the one that’s been among the toughest to dispel concerns neither an emperor nor a king. Specifically, it’s that all cheeses are best served with red wine.
Well, for the last time, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
In fact, when it comes to red wine vs. white wine-and pay attention if you’re planning your next cheese plate for entertaining anytime soon-the numbers tell the story. “White wine pairs with the widest variety of cheeses,” declares wine expert Belinda Chang.
That’s because the whole point of the pairing is to enhance your perception of the cheese. But red wines typically have higher alcohol contents and stronger oaks than white wines, which means that while powerful cheeses can stand up to reds-Fontina, for example, works with a Merlot-many more others wind up seeing some or all of their subtleties overridden. (Not to mention sometimes leaving you with a soapy taste in your mouth.)
Of course, if all this has you a bit befuddled and you’re just looking for a vintage with a “food-friendly” rep, you can do what one of the critics’ favorite Manhattan restaurants has done: make wines from the Alsace region in France its go-to choice for cheese courses. “We love to serve crisp whites like Alsace’s nutty Pinot Gris with cheddars, and floral Gewurztraminer with blue cheese,” says Chang, the wine director at The Modern, which draws a big arts crowd from being located at the Museum of Modern Art. “Overall, Alsace produces dry white wines that come off zesty and refreshing.”
In keeping with that theory, you might want to try these pairings:
Alsace Riesling with goat and feta cheeses. The dry and fresh wine, with citrus notes, works best with tangy cheeses.
Alsace Pinot Blanc with Swiss and Gouda cheeses. This one’s for all you fondue fans out there. These mild cheeses’ light, nutty flavor complements the wine’s fruity apple and pear notes.
Alsace Pinot Gris with Parmesan, cheddar, Manchego and Comté cheeses. This match-up truly disproves the red wine myth. The full-bodied, rich wine with smoky notes brings out all the subtleties of opulent hard cheeses.
Alsace Gewurztraminer with Muenster and creamy blue cheeses. Ripe cheeses need their pungent flavors balanced with a powerful and spicy wine like this one.
Finally, when preparing a cheese plate, remember to:
• Always include a variety of cheese consistencies (i.e., soft and hard) to keep things interesting.
• Serve cheese at room temperature and white wines at 50 degrees. If either are too cold, its aroma and flavor are masked.