How to pair cheese with wine.

Cheeses from Amaretto Delicatessen

Love Cheese? Love Wine? We do too, so this week we learnt some top tips on how to put them together.

Some months ago now, Jeremy from Norfolk Wine School came in and asked us to supply some of our cheeses for his monthly wine and cheese class. On Wednesday I went along to June’s session, hosted at the lovely St Andrew’s Brew House just a few doors along from Amaretto Delicatessen. I mean if you’re going to go back to school then why not make it a wine school.

Learning how to taste.

The upstairs room at the Brew House was filled with a long table. There were lots of people sitting around the table, and at each setting, six glasses and a plate. Jeremy made a prompt start and, promisingly, we were treated to some Cava as he opened the class (something that would have helped jolly along the lessons nicely in my high-school’s physics lessons particularly). Everyone smiled and the lady opposite me took off her coat, rubbed her hands. We were off.

After we had been expertly schooled in the art of how to taste wine – swirling, smelling, checking the colour – and the key components to watch out for when pairing food and wine, we began to taste the generous cuts of cheese and the wine.

Surprisingly, Jeremy had put four white wines on the menu, only two reds. The first wine, a Sauvignon de Touraine from the Loire valley, was light in colour and body. It swirled around non-stickily in the glass, which meant that it was not too high in alcohol. We smelt, then tasted the wine. I began to zone in mindfully on things like grassy notes, and citrus. Because the grapes are produced in a colder Northern climate, said Jeremy, they are naturally more acidic. When it comes to food pairings, acidity is apparently a good thing. This low bodied wine was put together with a less intense cheese – a creamy Chèvre (goat’s cheese), also from the Loire valley. This classic match works because the cheese is salty and a bit lemony, it matches the intensity of the wine; neither outdoing, but rather complementing each other beautifully.

Moving on we went through a number of interesting wines. Each wine was very different in body and tone and each tasting taught us a new type of pairing – whether complementary, cutting, contrasting. Jeremy is independent, so we weren’t beholden to any one supplier, nor to any one type of wine. I found the most surprising wine was the fourth, a very smokey red that was paired with our local cheddar-like cheese; Smoked Dapple. The wine and Smoked Dapple amplified each other’s intensity in a way that ex-smokers might particularly appreciate.

The Amaretto match: Chianti and Pecorino.

My favourite match? A smoother than smooth Chianti with our hard Pecornio cheese from Tuscany. It’s a taste combination that is difficult to top, a classic – the tannin stickiness of the Chianti, the high acidity, the smoothness meaning that it’s a great pairing with food generally – with pasta, tomato sauces and particularly the salty, medium bodied, addictive Pecorino we had on the plate on the night.

We finished with a sweet desert wine paired with our creamy blue cheese, the Roquefort. The contrast between the two was a very enjoyable sensation. Everybody lingered at the end, finishing what was left in the bottles of wine, chatting. There was a great atmosphere in the room, which had been nurtured by Jeremy’s friendly and professional style of schooling. We’d all been encouraged to chat, ask questions, answer questions and above all to eat and drink attentively which all added to our enjoyment.

Get the knowledge.

Jeremy runs these classes monthly so if you’re interested in going along and finding out more about how to become an excellent cheese and wine match-maker then do book up early. The classes normally sell out well in advance. Do also check out the many other wine tasting courses available. The Norfolk Wine School offers full courses or various monthly tasters like this one. Find out more at Norfolk Wine School. 

If you are then inspired to try some pairings at home, do of course come into Amaretto to browse our cheeses – and you should feel free to ask for a taster first.