Cheese Pairings: Global Inspirations, Local Creations

I just got back from the land of cheese – The Netherlands! My entire visit was dairy heaven. We went to a dairy farm that made their own cheeses, the Amsterdam Cheese Museum, and took several cheese and wine pairing classes. I thought I knew everything about cheese, but the Dutch take everything to the next level.

One of my biggest takeaways was the Dutch eat cheese entirely on its own. You won’t find bread, fruit or pickled veggies on their cheese boards. You may find some artisanal mustards that they’ve skillfully paired with cow’s milk Gouda, but that’s about it. Oh and of course, wine! They’re masters at enjoying the simplicity that is cheese and wine. So, clink your glass and say “proost” (that’s cheers in Dutch) for all the insider secrets I learned from my international cheese loving friends!

It’s All About the Slice

Instead of big cubes or cuts of cheese, thinly slice your cheese into perfect sheets of deliciousness. The reason why is this – it ensures every bite has the right amount of rind to cheese (after all, both have such complex flavors). You just don’t experience the full flavor of the cheese when you’re eating it in cubes. Don’t believe me? Give it a try… the difference is pretty remarkable!

Use Your Senses

Smell the cheese first then really take your time eating the first bite. Think through the flavors. Does it have hues of caramel, smoke, sweet cream or hazelnuts? What about vanilla, yeast, pine or butter? Don’t worry, there’s no wrong answer but try your best to pinpoint flavors to determine the best wine to pair it with.

The Bold and the Beautiful

Now’s the time to let your cheese really shine. When paired with the perfect wine, you elevate the complexity of both wine and cheese. Similarly, you can erase the flavors of the cheese when you pair with the wrong wine. And we wouldn’t want that, now would we? Just remember these two things and you’re on the right path to cheese and wine pairing success:

  • Light With Light. Lighter cheeses – like Brie, mozzarella, Camembert and Gouda – do best with a light, crisp wine. Sauvignon blanc, fumé blanc, pinot gris and champagnes would likely work well with any of these.
  • Strong With Strong. Sharp and aged cheddars, blue, pepper jack and smoked Gouda have bold flavor. Pair these with an oaky chardonnay, a bold red or luscious port.

The Dutch really have the whole art of cheese and wine pairings down. They rely on the cheese to really ignite their senses and add wine to compliment the flavors in a delightful way. I’m never going to eat cheese the same way again. From one self-proclaimed cheese master to another, proost!

Learn more about hosting a #DairyAmazing cheese pairing party.

By Sarah Ryan, MS, RDN, LD

Sarah is a registered dietitian nutritionist and foodie. She has a special interest in sports nutrition and is certified in food allergy training. When she isn't working, you can find her in the kitchen baking delicious cakes and beautiful pies. Learn more about Sarah

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