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July 10, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 0 Faves: 2

Cheese Pairing Guide

By Erin Froehlich More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Gastronomics Blog Series

Below is guide to the main cheese varieties, an averaged flavor profile, examples of cheeses in that group, and the wine, condiment, and food pairings that experts recommend.

A word of advice - while traditions are a good place to start,  there are really few hard and fast rules on cheese pairing. Don't be afraid to mix it up and let your own palate guide you!


With little time to ripen, fresh cheeses tend to be the most mildly flavored and moistest of cheeses. Fresh cheese may be made in as little as half an hour and does not require aging.

Flavor:  Mild, Tangy, Milky, Light

Include: Feta,  Chevre,  Cottage Cheese, Ricotta, Mascarpone, Mozzarella, Farmer Cheese, Queso Fresco, Oaxaca

Pairs With:  Honey, Balsamic Reduction, Fresh Fruit, Tomato, Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Complementary Drink: Fruity, Floral Wine, Green Tea


"Soft" or mold-ripened cheeses are left exposed and develop a rind as bacteria applied to the surface of the processed, pressed curd “blooms.” To encourage a white or “bloomy” rind as with Brie or Camembert, penicillium is applied.

Flavor: Buttery,Earthy, Garlicky, Herbal, Mushroomy, Salty

Include: Brie, Camembert, Humboldt Fog

Pairs With: Jams, Jellies,Melon, Berries, Nuts, Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Complementary Drink:  Sparkling Wine, Pinot Noir, Fruity Beer, White Burgandy, Pinot Gris


"Surface-ripened" is a term used to describe any cheese which is ripened by external forces, mold or bacteria in the environment or applied to the cheese wheel itself.

Flavor: Earthy, Musty,Herbal,Tangy, Creamy

Include: Chevrot, Brunet, Picodon, Valençay, Robiola, Rocchetta, Langres

Pairs With:  Meat, Dried Fruits, Pears

Complementary Drink: White, Non-Tannic Wines


Semi-soft cheese refers just to the moisture level is the cheese, typically achieved by careful application of pressure and aging. Hard cheese have the most pressure and time spent ripening, semi-soft cheese tend to have less pressure and time ripening. Because the are less reduced, semi-soft cheeses tend to have a more mild, milky flavor than firmer cheeses would.

Flavor: Creamy, Tangy, Fruity, Salty

Include: Brick, Crescenza, Colby, Edam, Havarti, Muenster, Teleme

Pairs With: Roasted Mushrooms,  Asparagus,  Poached Fruit, Grapes, Spicy Nuts, Spicy Peppers

Complementary Drink: Fruity Wine, Lager


Semi-hard cheeses are achieved by forcing out more of the water content than you would in a semi-soft cheese. As mentioned before, this can be done either by application of pressure, evaporation over time, or a combination of both. These tend to have a bit stronger flavor than a semi-soft would.

Flavor: Balanced Complexity, Earthy, Sweet, Salty, Buttery, Nutty

Include: Baby Swiss, Cantal, Cheddar, Emmentaler, Garrotxa, Gouda, Gruyere, Kasseri, Menonita, Monterey Jack, Ossau-Iraty, Pecorino Toscana, Swiss, Toma

Pairs With: Cheddars – cranberries, apples, mustard, Alpine Cheeses (exp. Swiss and Gruyere)  – spicy  pesto or chocolate, Buttery Cheese (exp. Gouda) – spicy nuts and peppers.

Complementary Drink: Sparkling Cider, Sparkling Wine, Pale Ales, Stouts


Hard cheeses have the least moisture content and because of that, as their flavorless water leaves only the flavorful proteins, the resulting wheel has stronger, more pronounced flavor.

Flavor:  Quite Salty,Sweet, Pungent

Include: Cotija, Enchilado, Dry Jack, Parmesan, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, Ricotta Salata, SarVecchio

Pairs With: Balsamic Reduction, Spiced Nuts, Grilled Vegetables, Vinegar,  Cured Meat

Complementary Drink: Riesling, Prosecco, Amarone


The pungent flavor and distinctive blue veins in a blue cheese are produced by adding a penicillium type mold and a process called needling. The first blue cheese recipes called for loaves of molding rye bread to be left nearby. Today, more precision work is done. Needles are inserted into the cheese leaves pathways for the beneficial mold to grow.

Flavor:  Musty, Pungent, Smoky, Nutty, Salty, Sweet

Include: Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Stilton

Pairs With: Honey,Fruit, Almonds, Spiced Sides, Especially Sides Spiced with Ginger

Complementary Drink: Spicy Gin, Port,  Flavored Beer, Red Sweet Wine, Moscato


Bacterial ripened or “washed-rind” cheeses are left exposed to the elements and a rind is encouraged. “Red smear,” a mix of yeast and beneficial bacteria, so called because of the reddish color it turns the rind, is applied to the surface.

Flavor: Gamy, Creamy, Earthy, Mushroomy

Include: Appenzeler,Brick, Epoisses, Langres, Limburger, Reblochon, Taleggio

Pairs With: Honey,Apples, Pears, Dried Fruit, Pork, Nuts

Complementary Drink: Fruity Wines, Sparkling Wines, Ale, Lager, Stout

Cheese 101 Home

Fun Cheese Facts

The History of Cheese

How Cheese is Made

 Tips for a Perfect Platter

Summer Cheese Platter


·Flavor: Gamy, Creamy, Earthy, Mushroomy

·Include: Appenzeler,Brick,Epoisses, Langres, Limburger, Reblochon, Taleggio

·Pairs With: Honey,Apples, Pears, Dried Fruit, Pork, Nuts

·Complementary Drink: Fruity Wines, Sparkling Wines, Ale, Lager, Stout

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