Hooked on Cheese: My Favorite Wine to Pair with Cheese

German winery Joh Jos Prüm's famous Rieslings can complement any cheese
Raymond Hook at JJ Prüm Winery
Raymond Hook

I’m often asked to name my favorite cheese, which is a surprisingly challenging request. The answer depends on so many variables: Will it be served on its own? Or as part of a cheese service? Or with accompaniments, or in a composed dish? Even the time of year, the weather, and my location factor in.

However, when people ask me my favorite beverage to drink with cheese, I can provide an answer easily. While I do have a soft spot for champagne (especially Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé), my favorite wine to pair with cheese is a Riesling from the Mosel region of Germany: Joh Jos Prüm. I have always loved wines from Prüm; they’re elegant and subtly sweet, with abundant aromas of stone fruit and flowers. These wines can pair with every type of cheese: soft, creamy cheeses; hard Swiss mountain cheeses; strong, ripe washed-rinds; and even blues.

That being said, you can imagine how thrilled I was to be invited to join a wine tour of Germany this summer that would include a stop at Weingut J.J. Prüm.

I had the opportunity to meet 4th generation owner Dr. Katharina Prüm at Weingut Liebfrauenstift, the storied vineyard that happens to be owned by Dr. Prüm’s husband, Wilhelm Steifensand. After tasting Steifensand’s classic offerings, we made our way to the Prüm estates, which are only 85 miles to the southeastl\.

The group convened on the winery’s front terrace, gazing out at the Mosel River flowing in front of Prüm’s sun-soaked vineyards as we tasted 15 different Rieslings of various vintages and classifications, all graciously poured by Dr Prüm herself. The wines were quite diverse but consistently elegant, and each was perfect for cheese pairing in a distinctive way. They each had enough acid to stand up to fat, enough sweetness to balance saltiness, and enough flavorful to stand up to a cheese with being overpowering. I’ve been extolling these wines’ virtues since the early 1990s; in fact, I’ve spoken of them so passionately and so often that a dear friend of mine made me a shirt that said “I❤️Mosel.” The three-hour-long tasting at Prüm just confirmed my appreciation.

Of the wines I tried, my absolute favorites were the 2011 Graacher Himmelreich Auslese Riesling and the 2003 Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel; in fact, all of my top picks were from the Graacher Himmelreich vineyard, one of four vineyards on the Prüm properties. As for Dr. Prüm, she most highly recommends pairing her younger Auslesen with cheese, since they are the most versatile and have enough power to “handle” stronger cheeses. In her words: “It is surprising to me that there is not more awareness about how well such wines pair with cheese; very often, people serve fresh or dried fruit – grapes, apricots, et cetera – as accompaniments to cheese, so wouldn’t it be most obvious to pair fruity Rieslings with them as well?” I agree wholeheartedly.

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