Parlez-vous fromage? From ooey, gooey, melted deliciousness to hard and salty yumminess, what’s not to love about cheese? From mac and cheese to fondue, each region in every part of the world has a different take on this milky goodness that is distinctly their own. And those national imaginations go way beyond Bessie the cow to include both goat and sheep milk cheeses. Whether it involves a quiet night at home or a party with friends, a wine and cheese pairing can transport you around the world without any need for your passport.
No dinner party is complete without a good cheese board. If you are preparing a Mexican fiesta night, why not sample several Mexican cheeses like queso fresco or panela? For a night in the Swiss Alps, you can offer a nutty and fragrant Emmental cheese. And if you’re in a Greek state of mind (and trying to forget a financial fiasco), feta would be even “betta.” It may seem daunting at first to explore uncharted wine and cheese territories, but it is easier than you think. We are talking wine and cheese, after all. They go together like bread and butter, only much better.
To create a good cheese board (without your guests being bored), you need one of each: soft cheese, semi-soft cheese, semi-hard cheese, and hard cheese. However, many people mix and match according to their individual tastes, offering more varieties.1
These are mostly made from raw milk. They are often spread on bread or crackers, and sadly, spoil faster than other cheeses.2Cooking with these soft cheeses is not common, but they make a great snack. Their creamy and decadent texture is often what people love and seek from a cheese board.3
Some of the more popular soft cheeses by country:
These types of cheeses may be made from pasteurized or raw milk, usually whole milk. This depends on the aging of the cheese and the style that the cheesemaker uses. Cooking with semi-soft cheeses is more common since they can be more easily shredded. They are usually more pungent and salty than soft cheeses, but equally delicious.4
Similar to semi-soft cheeses, semi-hard cheeses are made using very much the same process. They are classified as semi-hard cheeses simply based on texture. They usually become crumblier and stronger smelling with time, tend to melt easier, and are on the drier side. Semi-hard cheeses are not as full-bodied and are milder to the taste.
Hard cheeses are usually strong in flavor and fragrance. Eating a lot of hard cheese might be difficult (but might be a boon to your lactose-intolerant friends). They are often described as salty and sharp. Hard cheeses are easy to grate because of their firm texture. Depending on the cheesemaker, these cheeses are made from pasteurized or raw milk.5
Just because you and your friends aren’t able to take that trip of a lifetime to the Eiffel Tower or the Colosseum doesn’t mean you can’t get together and dream of all things French and Italian through the mediums of wine and cheese. It’s the perfect time to plan (or dream about) your trip, or simply pull down the blinds, roll out the cheese and wine, and enjoy the culinary delights your region of choice has to offer.
- Italy: Mozzarella, Fontina, Provolone, Parmesan
- Mexico: Queso Fresco, Panela, Cotija, Anejo Enchilado
- Switzerland: Gruyere, Emmental
- France: Brie, Port du Salut, Chevres, Roquefort
- Spain: Manchego, Iberico, Cabrales, Pata Cabra
- Greek: Galotiri, Feta, Kefalotyri
After you’ve chosen a few cheeses, the real question is: what to drink with them? (Hint: Not Orangina). You will most likely want to pair them with wine from the same country. If you have a killer wine shop nearby that offers an amazing selection of international wines, by all means, go for it! However, for most of us, it will be easier to choose wine based on the type of cheese rather than the region. Here are some examples of types of cheeses and popular wine varietals to help make your night perfect.6
It’s a hard fact: travel is expensive, and we’re not all in the position to take the trip of a lifetime to experience the food and culture of foreign lands whenever we feel the urge. Wine and cheese will soften the blow. Besides, everything’s better with wine and cheese. Even if you can’t go on an amazing trip across the world, you can save yourself the jetlag and create a night of culinary wine and cheese exploration. Happy travels!