Pairing, Serving & Storing Cheese
Our love affair for artisanal cheese is as every bit as varied and complex as that of our passion for wine and craft beer. To simplify the cheese tasting experience, our proprietary pairing system allows guests to Taste, Learn and Enjoy® the most ideal flavor profiles from our large selection of aged, handcrafted cheeses. Whether you think Cheddar is better, or a nice Blue is best, we’ve made it easy to find the perfect pairing for your favorite gourmet cheese.
When browsing in our cheese display, you’ll notice there are wine ‘style’ labels on each cheese. This ‘style’ label is your guide to help you find the perfect wine to pair with that particular cheese. If the label says BOLD, match it with a BOLD wine, like a medium-bodied Merlot. If the label says RICH, grab a bottle of wine from our RICH alcove. It’s that simple!
Pairing With Wine
There are no “rules” in pairing cheese and wines, and much depends on personal likes and dislikes. In many cases, you will discuss many characteristics found in both wine and cheese. Good cheese and wine pairings take some thought, and it’s important to consider both the wine and the cheese’s texture and flavor profiles before making final selections. The goal is to create harmony and balance between the wine and the cheese and not overpower one with the other.
- Keep pairings simple: pick one distinct wine and one distinct cheese that pair well. For example, full-flavored cheeses, such as creamy washed rind cheeses require medium to full-bodied wines, such as Merlot, Zinfandel, or Syrahs. Likewise, pair light cheeses with light wines, such as Rieslings, Pinot Gris, or Pinot Noirs.
- Pair wine and cheese according to the area of origin or even on the local region. Just as the growing conditions impart particular characteristics (called “terroir”) to a region’s wines, these same characteristics may be imparted to the cheeses through the vegetation on which the animals graze.
- Do not limit yourself only to still table wines, but branch out and try sparkling wines, late harvest and sweet wines, as well as fortified wines such as sherries and ports. In particular, blue cheeses pair extremely well with dessert wines such as late harvest Viogniers and Rieslings and Muscat wines. Also, creamy cheeses pair well with with sparkling wines and Champagne, as the bubbles help to cleanse the palate and refresh it for another bite.
- Explore the varieties of cheeses based on their sources of milk. For example, fresh goat cheeses are mild, lemony, and somewhat acidic in their flavor profiles and creamy in texture. They pair well with crisp white wines, such as a Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris, and especially Rieslings. Aged sheep’s milk cheeses pair well with Gewurtztraminers and fruity Zinfandels. Aged cow’s milk cheddars go well with sherries.
Pairing With Beer
Wines aren’t the only beverages that go well with cheese. There is an ever-growing number of artisanal and craft beers, as well as craft ciders available that create interesting and fresh flavor combinations, which can also inspire you to experiment and broaden your culinary knowledge.
Beer/Cheese Pairing Tailgating parties have become a full-fledged American tradition where good food and a nice cold beer go hand-in-hand. Instead of your traditional nachos and chicken wings pairing, try something different with a beer and cheese pairing. Like wines, craft beers each have characteristics that marry well with different cheeses. Not sure how to pair beer and cheese? Here are some pairing suggestions that will have football fans of any team cheering.
The bitter flavors of these type of beers can sometimes be overwhelming, so when pairing look for blue-veined cheeses, such as a mild gorgonzola. The roasty notes found in these types of beers help bring out the sweetness in the cheese and the bubbles help cut through the fat and salt in the cheese to open up the flavors.
Look for cheeses with tangy flavors. One classic pairing is fresh goat cheese. The tanginess of the cheese helps bring out the citrus and sweetness of the beer, while the wheat beer also helps compliment the tangy flavors of the goat cheese.
India Pale Ale (IPA)
Look for a strong cheese, such as an aged Asiaggo rubbed with rosemary and olive oil. Neither overpowers the other, which is very important when you have a pairing.
The malty and caramel flavors found in a super aged Wisconsin Cheddar make this cheese the ideal candidate for pairing with an English Ale, which also boasts malty and caramel notes. The flavors work in unison and helps bring out the complex flavors of each.
One last tip: look for balance. Try buying three different types of beer with completely different flavor profiles such as a wheat beer, IPA and a Porter. Pair them with a fresh goat cheese, a stinky cheese like a Limburger and a big cheddar. Have a tasting with your friends and encourage everyone to explore the pairings. Have fun and keep it simple.
Tips For Serving
- When putting together a cheese board, to be served before or after dinner, remember to limit your selection to no more than five different cheeses. Serve cheeses of different sizes, shapes, and flavor or texture profiles to create diversity and add interest to your cheese board. Strong, pungent cheeses shouldn’t be placed next to delicately flavored cheeses, and try to have individual knives for each cheese.
- Even modest cheese trays can be elegant when attention is given to the presentation. Try serving cheeses on a wooden board, marble slab, straw mat, or flat wicker basket. Do not to overcrowd the serving tray, as your guests will need room to slice the cheeses. Serve bread and/or plain crackers on a separate plate, or in a wicker basket.
- Apples, pears, grapes, strawberries, fresh figs and melon add variety to a cheese board, especially if cheese is being served with cocktails. Additional accompaniments can include nuts, such as walnuts or Marcona almonds, fig cakes, and any manner of condiments, such as floral honeys, wine jellies, and Italian mostarda.
- Serving cheese after the main course, prior to or in place of dessert, adds an elegant touch to casual dinners. If served with cocktails, before dinner, remember that cheeses can be filling. Serve in limited quantities and variety.
Tips For Storing Cheese
- Always re-wrap cheese in fresh wrapping, preferably in waxed or parchment paper, after the cheese has been opened to avoid having the cheese dry out or pick up other flavors. Remember that natural cheese is a living organism, with enzymes and bacteria that need air and moisture to survive. Thus, re-wrapping the cheese in paper and then in plastic wrap to create a micro-environment for the cheese is the preferred storage treatment. However, you should not leave cheese in the same wrappings for extended periods of time.
- The recommended temperature range for storing cheese is between 35 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit, at a high humidity level, preferably in the bottom vegetable/fruit bin. To avoid accidentally freezing the cheese, don’t store it near the freezer compartment or in the meat bin.
- Double wrap strong, pungent cheeses, such as blue, aged brick, or washed rind varieties, to avoid having their aromas permeate other foods. It is best to place these cheeses in an airtight container for extra assurance against aroma leakage. And it’s best to store cheeses separately if possible, especially blues, washed rinds and milder cheeses, as they will pick up each other’s flavors.
- If cheeses other than fresh cheeses and blues have surpassed their expiration dates (imprinted on the packaging) or if the cheese develops a blue-green mold on the exterior, make a cut about a ½ inch below the mold to ensure that it has been entirely removed; the remaining cheese will be fine.
- In general, never freeze natural cheeses, as they may lose their texture, and in some cases their flavor profiles will be seriously altered. If you must freeze cheese, allow the cheese to thaw slowly in the refrigerator and use it for cooking, as the texture will become crumbly and dry after it is defrosted.
- If stored and wrapped cheeses are overly dry, develop a slimy texture, exhibit ammoniated or any off odors, it’s best to discard them. If you find these characteristics in cheeses at your local shop, do not purchase them, as they are past their prime. If a retailer’s offerings consistently display the above characteristics, it’s best to find another resource for your cheese.