Wine and cheese parties are beginning to seem all the rage at dinners, special events and even on social media lately as vegans (and cheese lovers) the nation over have begun popping corks to serve with their Miyoko’s Creamery cheeses. How exciting! This tickles me pink as this is one of the reasons I set out to create these cheeses.
It all started out in my dorm room almost four decades ago when my roommate and I decided to host wine and cheese parties on Friday nights. (A six-month trek through Europe is what kicked it all off, where lunch everyday was a baguette, some olives, and a chunk of a local cheese.) We knew almost nothing about wine, and our selections were generally limited to things in jugs, characterized by quantity rather than quality. But the cheeses – they were whatever the local cheese monger teased us to try when we walked in with our cherubic faces on Friday afternoons. There, our taste buds were challenged and stretched as we dipped into the realms of tangy, musty, stinky, and funky, as rounds of Brie, Limburger, Chevre, and Tellagio graced our cheeseboard.
For years thereafter, until I began to transition to veganism in my late twenties, I reveled in entertaining with wine and cheese (and yes, my taste in wine evolved!). Even after becoming vegan, I reminisced about the old days of Gruyere and Comte, and knew that eventually, I’d have to do something about making it more than just a wistful dream.
The question on everybody’s mind, as they receive their packages of Miyoko’s Creamery cheeses, is how to pair them with wine. This, of course, can be a fun problem to have to solve! While I will delve into some suggestions in a minute, I want to mention that in many of the pairings I have done, I’ve found some surprising combinations of what works. Every Pinot label will be somewhat different, and hence, you might find your bottle pairing better with one cheese than another. My first suggestion is to make it a game, keeping in mind that winning combinations are those that enhance each other and make them taste even better. So to start, take a sip of wine first and savor all of its characteristics. Then take a nibble of cheese, then sip the wine again. See how it changes. You can be your own judge in seeing whether the wine is now the same, better, or worse, or robbed or enhanced of certain qualities.
In my experience, here are some combinations I’ve found to be winners:
French Style Winter Truffle (6) – This rich, buttery, creamy cheese with a hint of the musty earthiness from the mushrooms pairs beautifully with a good Pinot Noir with its complex notes of black cherry and spice, and just a hint of acidity and low tannins. A Petit Syrah is also a good choice.
Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash (Limited Edition) (5) – Try this Limited Edition cheese with a bottle of Zinfandel, where the full-bodied, jammy, blackberry notes balance nicely with the aged tanginess and slightly smoky, spicy notes of the Black Ash.
High Sierra Rustic Alpine (3) – This incredibly buttery, semi-hard cheese with its deep umami flavors pairs well with a rich Chardonnay with a hint of oak, or with a Cabernet Sauvignon when you want to minimize the tannins and bring out it fruity characteristics. Lighter whites like Semillon or Sauvignon Blanc also play nicely with the buttery qualities.
Fresh Loire Valley in a Fig Leaf (4) – This is a beautiful, complex cheese with a fresh tanginess that stands up to a powerful, full bodied Cabernet Sauvignon with its black currant, tobacco notes, or a classic Bordeaux. This also matches the tart freshness of a Semillon, or can balance a sweeter wine.
Aged English Sharp Farmhouse (7) – The longer you keep this cheese in your refrigerator, the harder it will become and more full-flavored. So depending on how far along it is in the aging process, you’ll want to play around with pairings. The older it is, the bolder it will become, so go to a lighter, less complex wine, where they won’t compete too much, or go for full spiciness such as a Syrah, Petit Syrah or Cabernet Franc. A good ale is also a good bet!
Aged English Smoked Farmhouse (8) – Try dessert wines such as Port or late harvest Zinfandel where the sweetness counterbalances the deep, smoky, savory cheese. A fruit-forward Barbera or Merlot can also be good choices, as would a Riesling or Gewurtzaminer. Like the Sharp Farmhouse, this is a good one to pair with beer as well.
Country-Style Herbes de Provence (9) – Pop open a bottle of champagne or a sweeter Prosecco for this elegant, floral cheese. Don’t be afraid to pair this with bold wines like Syrahs and Cabernets as well.
Double Cream Chive (1) and Sundried Tomato Garlic (2) – Try these creamy, simpler cheeses with your everyday red, a tannic Chianti, or a lighter white, such as Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc.