Hooked on Cheese: Big Cheese and Big(ger) Wine

Does cheese pair better with red or white wine?
Wine and Cheese


Just like with all foods, some cheeses pair better with red wine than white wine.

Last weekend I was having dinner with my friend and business partner Bryan Crittenden when our chat turned to wine, specifically wines to pair with food. We had a big difference of opinion on the matter: I prefer dry white wines, with no or very light oak to complement and balance subtle food flavors, while he likes big reds with elevated alcohol levels and what he termed “chew value.” After dinner, we headed to my place for cheese and business talk and the debate continued.  

When I offered to open a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with my cheese choices, he declared we couldn’t possibly shift to white after we’d had a glass of red with dinner. I begrudgingly indulged him and opened a bottle of Chateau Ste. Michelle 2012 Canoe Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills wine growers. A bold 14.5%-alcohol-content red, I knew Bryan would love this one.

Given the new wine selection, naturally I had to switch up my cheese choices…but luckily I have an insanely well-stocked larder. My first pick was the much-lauded Pleasant Ridge Reserve, an outstanding Wisconsin cow’s milk cheese with hearty, complex flavors. My second was a firm, washed-rind California raw sheep’s milk cheese: Fat Bottom Girl from Bleating Heart Cheese. Bleating Heart says its name was inspired by its “accidentally rotund shape” – let’s just say it’s bigger on the bottom than the top (not trying to get myself into trouble here!). The last cheese was a goat’s milk cheddar from Iowa’s Milton Creamery called Country Queen. It’s a true sharp cheddar, crumbly with extra tang.

I had to hand it to Bryan: all three of these cheeses tasted delicious with the big red. Next time, though, I’m insisting on the Sauvignon Blanc and the cheeses I had originally chosen, just to prove my point: any wine can be a “food wine” as long as the pairings are meticulously chosen! 


You can follow Raymond's cheese adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and his website. Additional reporting by Madeleine James.