Red wines go best with cheese
In Australia, particularly, this is seen almost as an unwritten rule – but many white wines can do the job just as well as reds, particularly the leaner, more modern styles of chardonnay that are popular right now.
Matching wine and cheese can be a complex matter; and not all combinations are matches made in heaven. Subtle wines can sometimes be overpowered by pungent cheeses, while delicate cheeses can be overwhelmed by rich, powerful wines.
Hugh Johnson, the veteran English wine writer, says: “Fine red wines are slaughtered by strong cheeses; only sharp or sweet white wines survive.”
Johnson says there are two basic rules: the harder the cheese, the more tannin the wine can have, and the creamier the cheese, the more acidity required in the wine.
Chardonnay, which can range in style from rich and oaky, to lean and acidic, can be a surprisingly good partner for a wide range of cheeses.
In France, the classic combination is to match cheeses with wines from the same region; say the rich Epoisses cheese of Burgundy with a lean chardonnay from the Côte Chalonaise or nearby Macon.
This rule works less well in Australia but if you are putting together a cheese platter and want to match it with a white wine, then good choices would be more subtle sauvignon blancs (which in France are a traditional match for goat cheeses) or an elegant and preferably younger chardonnay.