It sounds like the simplest party-hosting idea ever: Open a few bottles of wine, lay out a few plates of cheese and crackers, and call it a day. But as anyone who’s ever wandered the aisles of a quality wine shop or ogled the cheese case of a gourmet store can tell you, deciding what to serve can be a daunting task.
Inspired by Joss & Main’s The Perfect Pairing event, which launched on December 11 with a host of cheese boards, platters, and plates, we sought out a few no-fail combinations of easy-to-find wines and complementary artisan cheeses. Offer these four classic duos (shown above, from left to right) at your next soiree, and even the finickiest of palates will likely be pleased.
Champagne + Double- or Triple-Cream Cheese
Buttery, high-fat double- and triple-cream cow’s milk cheeses like Brie, Camembert, and Brillat-Savarin call for something with fizz: The bubbles in champagne actually work like little palate scrubbers, cutting and balancing the richness of the cheese.
For a twist: Try a dry sparkler from California or another region of France. (One of Plume’s budget faves: Louis Bouillot Crémant de Bourgogne, a sparkling wine from Burgundy.) Bottles that say “méthode Champenoise” or “méthode traditionelle” have been made following the traditional Champagne-making techniques, and they’re likely to have similar flavor profiles.
Sauvignon Blanc + Chèvre
A tangy, light, fresh goat cheese (a.k.a. chèvre) deserves a white wine with good acidity and equally bright flavors. Wines made with the sauvignon blanc grape, such as Sancerre, white Bordeaux, and Pouilly-Fumé, are the perfect companion.
For a twist: Choose an herbed goat cheese, or swap the sauvignon blanc for chenin blanc, which can have similarly citrusy or tropical aromas.
Cabernet + Aged Cheddar
Salty, firm, and bold cheddar cheeses need a substantial and balanced red that’s not overtly sweet or fruity. Cabernet sauvignon, or cabernet blended with other varietals such as merlot and malbec (as in red Bordeaux wines), are hefty enough to complement the strength of the cheddar, but they’re usually nuanced enough to let you pick up on the subtle flavors of an aged cheese.
For a twist: Trade the cheddar for an aged gouda.
Port + Stilton
Stilton, that famously strong and stinky blue-veined cheese from England, needs a fortified wine that can stand up to its pungent flavor and aroma. Richly fruity, sweet, and high in alcohol, port wines are up to the task. We prefer pairing blue cheese with younger ruby ports due to their bolder, jam-like flavor; aged tawny ports tend to be more mellow and subdued.
For a twist: Try any strong blue cheese, such as Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Cabrales, or Bleu D’Auvergne.