The Perfect Pair: Exploring the History and Harmony of Wine and Cheese

Some things naturally go together. Shoes and socks, salt and pepper, fish and chips. One of the ultimate pairings is… wine and—you guessed it—cheese! 

While nowadays you wouldn’t think twice about busting open a nice bottle of wine to enjoy alongside a cheeseboard, were these two delicacies always enjoyed alongside one another? When exactly did cheese and wine join forces to become the dopamine-inducing duo that never fails to please even the most reluctant partygoer? 

While it’s hard to say whether wine and cheese have always been enjoyed together, both have been produced for thousands of years. Evidence suggests wine was being made in Persia and the Caucasus region as early as 6000 BCE. The origins of cheese are less well-known, with its invention predating most records. Legend has it that cheese was accidentally invented by a merchant who used old animal carcasses as containers to store milk. Digestive enzymes in the lining of animal organs—commonly referred to as rennet—would subsequently convert the milk into curds and whey, starting off the cheese-making process. Although the exact provenance of cheese is up for debate, what we know with certainty is that cheese was being made in Europe as early as 5500BCE. Therefore, it’s very possible that wine and cheese have been enjoyed side by side for millennia. 

But why do we eat cheese and wine together? 

Modern science has the answer—it’s all about balancing flavours and mouthfeel. Generally speaking, the salty, fatty, creaminess of cheese provides a balance to the astringency, acidity, and alcohol in wine. Fat has been shown to act as a neutralising agent against tannins (the bitter component of many red wines). We eat cheese with wine for the same reason that we add a dash of milk to a strong cup of tea…it leads to a more pleasurable, well-balanced sensory experience. 

But what cheese should I pair with my wine?

A good place to start is a note that not all wines will go with all cheeses. With thousands of different types of cheese and wine combinations to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to begin.

A potential starting point is to do a bit of research. In the world of food and wine, there’s a saying— what grows together, goes together. Cheese and wine from the same regions have been eaten alongside one another for hundreds of years and tend to complement each other. For example, Brie cheese and Champagne have historically been produced in neighbouring regions of northern France and are considered an excellent pairing. Similarly, Sauvignon Blanc and Chevre (goat’s cheese) is another tried and tested duo. Both are famously produced in France’s Loire Valley. 

However, in such a globalised world with so many new methods of winemaking emerging, it’s hard to know whether the Sauvignon Blanc from a local winery is representative of what would be considered typical. The best advice is to follow your nose and trust your instinct—try new wines and perhaps pair them with something you’re not familiar with. While you might come up against a few funky pairings, you'll find some amazing combinations and have a lot of fun along the way!

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