How to match wine and cheese? A question that many people ask themselves. In our article: “Matching Wine with Food: How to Perfectly Combine Flavors” we already started to see some of the characteristics to be considered in order to eat better and to taste excellent wines at the same time. Today we want to go deeper into this subject, by discussing a specific branch of food: cheese. Let’s get to know them better.
Classification of cheeses
Italy produces a great quantity of cheeses, famous for their variety and quality. Many of them are common and appreciated in Italy, whereas others have a strong regional characterization. Italian cheese production offers many possibilities of matching wine and cheese.
In order to understand what factors and characteristics to take into consideration, let’s start by describing what a cheese is and how it is made. A cheese is a dairy product obtained by the coagulation of milk. Milk can be: whole, partially skimmed, or skimmed. However cheese can also be obtained from the cream of milk, processed by using various cultures and cooking salt. Enzymes are of animal or vegetal origin and are called rennet. The processing of cultures is used to make curd. The liquid part of the curd is called whey and when it is separated from the solid part, the cheese is put to ripen.
Cheese can be classified according to many parameters (fat content, origin of milk, type of dough, etc.). The combinations of wine and cheese are, therefore, almost infinite. Let’s see how different cheeses can be classified.
Cheeses can be:
- Fat – +42% fat in dry matter
- Semi-fat – 35-42% fat in dry matter
- Low-fat – less than 20% fat in dry matter
In this case we find cheeses:
- Fresh – to be consumed within 15 days from preparation
- Semi aged – to be consumed within 6 months from preparation
- Seasoned – to be consumed beyond 6 months from the preparation
Cheeses are also distinguished according to the animal that produces the milk from which dairy products are made. Therefore we have cow, sheep, goat, buffalo and mixed cheeses.
We find cheeses
- Raw – they are products in which the final temperature is identical to the final temperature
- Semi cooked – the curd is heated up to 48°C maximum
- Cooked – curd is heated up to 55°C maximum
Moisture content gives life to cheeses:
- Hard – the percentage of water they contain is less than 40%.
- Semi-hard – the percentage of water they contain is between 40-50%.
- Soft – the percentage of water they contain is higher than 45%.
Rind determines cheese:
- Dry Rind – during aging the rind is washed, brushed and oiled
- Semi Hard or Washed – the cheese is turned over and treated with water and salt
- Blossomed Rind – the rind is sprayed with a special mold
Type of dough
The type of dough refers to the quality of the cheese. Therefore we can find cheeses with
- Blue cheese paste – the cheese wheels are enriched by a special mold, which stains their surface and dough with green and blue colors
- Pasta filata – curd, in this case, is heated in boiling water. The curd spins and is then stretched to form more or less long balls
- Pressed or curdled – curd is mechanically pressed in order to make whey come out completely
- Melted curd – after a certain maturation, the curd is melted.
Wine and cheese: the fundamental rules for a perfect matching
Wine and cheese are matched by taking in consideration the flavor of the cheese and its fatness. Some cases also require the consideration of the succulence of the cheese under consideration, the aromatic intensity as well as the aromatic persistence.
Therefore, in order to understand how to choose the right wine to be matched to the cheese served, it is necessary to evaluate many characteristics, before making a well thought choice.
Some general rules. Soft cheese can be matched very well with white wines. Bianco dei Leoni, for example, is the perfect match for buffalo mozzarella and fresh cheese. Long seasoned cheeses (Bra, Bitto, Monte Veronese, Grana or Parmigiano) are well matched with a wine such as Amarone della valpolicella Classico or Amarone Forlago, full bodied and intense.
Some blue cheeses can also be matched with passito and sweet wines, such as a Garganega Passito Veneto.