Hooked on Cheese: German Wine Pairings, Part I

Cheese expert Raymond Hook went to Germany to taste top wines and pair them with his favorite cheeses
Valckenberg Winery
Raymond Hook

This is Part I of a two-part feature on German wine & cheese pairings. During a recent trip to Germany, cheese expert Raymond Hook had the opportunity to take a wine tour with by Valckenberg, a major wine export house. He tasted almost 200 wines from 9 wineries; here are some of his favorites, paired with complementary cheeses. 

Pairing 1: Weschler – 2018 Riesling Troken & Hoch Ybrig 

This wine’s grapes are grown in mutigenerational family-owned vineyards that have existed since Roman times. A relative newcomer, vintner Katharina Weschler has taken a hands-on, dynamic approach to rejuvenate her family’s tradition, culminating in some rave reviews for her elegant Silvaners and Rieslings. This particular Riesling is quite dry with nice fruit flavors, while Hoch Ybrig cheese is a cider-washed, tangy firm cheese made from the milk of exclusively grass-fed cows. The mountain grass flavors and salt of the cheese complement the fruity wine resulting in a bold and balanced pairing. 

Pairing 2: Carl Graff – 2018 Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spatlese & Robiola Incavolata 

This wine is a super-value, easy-to-drink Mosel Riesling with stone fruit and citrus flavors. Pair it with freshly baked bread and a mixed-milk robiola; look for one that is partially goat’s milk, as this wine will taste great with the minerals found in goat’s milk cheeses. The best case scenario: get your hands on a Robiola Incavolata, which is wrapped in cabbage leaves that imbue it with a certain level of spice during the aging process – the perfect companion to the fruit-forward wine. 

Pairing 3: Bernhard Huber – 2016 Malterdinger Spätburgunder & Époisses de Bourgogne 

Known as the Godfather of German Pinot Noirs, Bernhard Huber (who sadly passed away in 2014) dedicated many years of his life to growing Pinot grapes on his estate, located near France’s famed Burgundy region. His dedication to the varietal lead to Germany becoming the 3rd largest grower of Pinot Noir worldwide, after France and the United States. Like many of his highly sought-after wines, this Spätburgunder is big, robust, and will age extremely well. As a pairing, Époisses is the classic washed rind cheese for French Burgundies, and will also be ideal served with this wine. When the cheese is very ripe, it becomes particularly creamy and develops an intense aroma that’s sensational when paired with big, fruity reds. 

Pairing 4: Pflüger – 2017 Biodynamite Riesling Gewürztraminer & St. Stephen 

This wine is a blend of biodynamically farmed Riesling and Gewürztraminer grapes from the Pfalz area. Winemaker/owner Alexander Pflüger has an incredible passion for both the quality of his wine and his ecologically friendly farming style. All wines are estate grown; this particular blend is highly aromatic with ripe tree fruit, apricot, and tart notes. A beautifully crafted wine that is fresh and perfectly balanced. Pair this with a rich, earthy cheese like the St. Stephen, a triple cream from New York’s Hudson Valley that has nutty undertones and a hint of a cooked mushroom flavor.  

I would like to thank Peter, Tilman, Esther and Jenni of Valckenberg, who organized this stellar tour. For more information on what they do, check out their Facebook page or contact them here.

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Follow Raymond's food escapades on FacebookInstagram and his website. Additional reporting by Madeleine James.