Jan 12 2018

Whether the event is a formal dinner party, casual open house or picnic in the park, adding a starter of VQA Ontario wine and cheese is guaranteed to elevate the meal. This classic combination works even better when locally produced wines and cheese are on the plate.
With so many possibilities, what’s the best way to select winning wine and cheese pairings? Local expert and Ontario wine enthusiast Shawn McCormick of Uncork Ontario suggests considering four basic components when deciding on a wine and cheese pairing:

Pairing Basics

Sweet and Salty
This is a classic flavor combination that marries a sweet wine with a salty, aged cheese. The sharp contrast between the two lights up the palate, and the salt can actually enhance the fruitiness of the wine. Try an off dry Riesling and Parmesan crisps!

Tannins and Aged Cheeses
Dry red wines can taste too astringent when paired with a light cheese, so drink them with hard, aged cheeses that don’t have much moisture. Shawn recommends Ontario Meritage blends for this type of pairing.

Consider Texture
Smooth, buttery wines like VQA oaked-Chardonnay work well with soft, creamy cheeses such as Brie because their textures and mouth feel are similar. It’s also possible to go for a contrast in texture by pairing a soft cheese with a tangy, fruit-forward wine instead. Personal preference plays a role in choosing complementary or contrasting textures, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

Try for Terroir
Wines and cheese from the same regions have many of the same qualities, thanks to the local climate and soil conditions. It’s well worth the effort to find local producers, and many of our wineries have connections to local cheese makers for a special treat. It’s a joy to sample something new, and it’s also incredibly satisfying to encourage local producers in our communities.

Five Amazing Combinations for Inspiration

Though Shawn encourages trying many combinations to discover favorite pairings, he has put together five foolproof recipes for cheese and wine pairings that are guaranteed to please any palate.

1. VQA Sauvignon Blanc and Goat Cheese
Rich, creamy goat cheese needs a bright, acidic wine to cleanse the palate between bites. Local Sauvignon Blanc wines are fruity and bright, so they fit the bill well. The salt in the goat cheese makes this a classic sweet-and-salty pairing.

2. Unoaked Chardonnay and Brie
Brie is a complicated cheese: The inside is creamy, while the outer rind is earthy and a little bitter. To work with differing flavors and textures, try an unoaked VQA Chardonnay. The acidity will cut through the creaminess of the cheese, while the fruit flavors provide a nice contrast to the complex flavors of the rind.

3. Pinot Noir and Hard, Aged, Washed-Rind Cheese
A nutty cheese like Gruyere or Emmental works well with the delicate berry flavors of Pinot Noir. Ontario has great local Swiss-type cheeses that are fantastic with local VQA Pinot Noirs, making this a great way to sample a terroir-based pairing.

4. Cabernet Sauvignon and Aged Cheddar
This is a great example of pairing a tannin-laden wine with an aged cheese. The high protein content of a crumbly cheddar will smooth out the tannins of a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Cabernet Franc, allowing the fruit flavors to shine through for a more drinkable experience.

5. Icewine and Blue Cheese
An Ontario Icewine made from Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc grapes has enough acidity to cut through the fattiness of the blue cheese, while the sharp saltiness of the cheese brings out the fruitiness of the wine. This is a pairing worth sharing, and one of Shawn’s all-time favorites — a wonderful way to enjoy the local fruits of the land.

Part of the fun of sampling wine and cheese pairings lies in the adventure of trying something new. Don’t be afraid to experiment, and make a note of favorite combinations for future reference. There’s a whole world of VQA wine and cheese in Ontario just waiting to be discovered!