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Against the grain wine and cheese pairings

Pairing wine with any type of food is challenging, as personal preference trumps the science of molecular pairings or the almost innate traditions of some food cultures, where a particular wine is meant to go with a specific dish. We host a great number of wine tastings at Cépage, and frequently incorporate cheese, charcuterie, ferments and pickles into the equation. If there’s one thing that can be said in the way of feedback, it’s that our guests say they would never have thought to pair the combinations we do. Going against the grain of tradition, exploring numerous combinations of flavour and textures can have incredible results. Here are a few of our favourite cheese and wine pairings in recent weeks.

Extra Brut Champagne and Baron Bigod

Brie de Meaux has strict appellation rules in France. It can only come from the village of Meaux, naturally, and only be made from the Montbéliarde Cow. A herd of this specific breed of cow was transported to Suffolk where a soft, Brie like cheese is made by one particular famer. The results are staggering. Showing a more earthy, mushroom-like character than traditional French Brie de Meaux, Baron Bigod has the same, rich and rounded texture, oozing once up to room temperature.

If there’s one way to cleanse the palate, it’s pairing this cheese with an incredibly dry, saline and mineral extra-brut Champagne. A regular brut Champagne may lack the finesse to compliment the cheese effectively, being a little too rich and failing to cut through the cheese’s fatty core. Our wine of choice for this is the extra-brut from Frerejean Fréres, 50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir.

Alpine bottles with Morbier

This pairing is slightly more linear and clear cut. It’s an incredible example of the beauty of matching terroir with terroir. Morbier is a cheese formed out of the remains of Comté curd. In a similar way to a Victoria sponge cake which is made in two parts, the ‘evening milk’ or curd which isn’t enough to make a whole Comtén is saved and pressed. Cheesemakers add a layer of ash to protect the cheese from mould and other bacterias overnight. In the morning, the cheese has some ‘morning milk’ added, with the ash remaining, adding a slightly gritty complexion to the cheese’s texture

In terms of profile, the cheese is the most similar to a Raclette, though a little more savoury. A host of alpine cheeses can be paired with Morbier, be it Savagnin and Jacquere, or Trousseau and Mondeuse, so long as the wines are Alpine.

Orange wine and aged Mimolette

Mimolette was originally inspired by Dutch Edam cheese, and mi-mou in French means semi-soft. In cheese terms, we can usually denote if a cheese is semi-soft as it will have a slightly oily character to its texture, which is key to understanding which wines will pair best. The subtly oily sensation in your mouth is perfect for breaking down a wine’s tannin content, especially robust and youthful red wines from Bordeaux and South American red wines (Chilean Carmeñere, Merlot etc.). Mimolette is oily, but it’s also far more aromatic than a cheese like cheddar (a traditional pairing for tannic red wines is Cheddar). Hence, we’re going with an orange wine, from Alsace; wines made from white grapes which have undergone a short maceration on the skins develop some tannins, akin to a red wine. Aromatic qualities in the grapes such as Gewürtztraminer and Pinot Gris in conjunction with a red wine like structure makes for an unquestionably interesting and satisfying pairing with mimolette.

Viognier and blue

Balancing salt and sugar together is a dark art. Bone dry white wines seldom compliment cheese because the salt rips through the fine balance and freshness of the Sauvignon Blanc, Gargenega and Listan Bianco. If these types of wines remain your preference, seek more monotone and less salty styles of cheese like Croittan de Chavignol and Valençay. The aromatic characteristics of some white wines make them better suited for pairing with cheese generally, despite traditions of red wine and cheese dating back centuries. Viognier, Riesling, Chenin and Gewürtztraminer do all have a trick up their sleeve over the red wines, the potential for residual sugar, a welcoming sensation when pairing a salty cheese, especially soft blue (be it Roquefort, Stilton or Blue Cheshire). The weighted texture of Viognier, in addition to a touch of residual sugar is a surprising pairing for blue cheese which always delivers.

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