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Pair Cheese and Wine for a Fun, Tasty Party

Contributing writer

Cheese and wine have a great deal in common, and they have been enjoyed together since ancient times. Both are products of fermentation. Both may be consumed while fresh, simple, and young or in their more complex forms when they are aged and mature.

There are no hard and fast rules as to which wines should always be served with particular cheeses. There is an old adage that red wines go with hard cheeses and white wines with soft cheeses - but just like red wine with fish, there's always an exception. Another tradition is that cheeses of a certain geographic region are best enjoyed with wines of the same region. But, just as one bottle of cabernet sauvignon from the Napa Valley is not like that of another vintage or another producer, neither is one Brie exactly like another. Both are living and constantly changing. This is what makes pairing cheese and wine interesting as well as delicious.

Harmony should always exist between the cheese and the wine. They should have similar intensities. There should always be a balance - strong and powerful cheeses should be paired with similar wines and delicate cheeses should be paired with lighter wines.

The possibilities of pairing cheese and wine are endless. There are so many wines and so many cheeses. Below I have listed some of my preferences:

Young, mild, and milky cheeses such as fresh goat cheese with light, fruity delicate wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Beaujolais

Assertive, strong-flavored cheeses such as Provolone with young, robust red wines such as and Chianti and Syrah

Aged mellow cheeses such as Parmigiano and Gouda with older, robust wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel

Strong, pungent cheeses such as Pont l'Ev�que or Taleggio with young, full-bodied wine such as Merlot or sweet dessert wines such as late-harvest Reislings and Sauternes

Soft-ripened cheeses like Brie and Camembert with full-flavored Chardonnays or Champagne

Tangy strong goat cheeses such as Crottin di Chavignol with Burgundies

Blue cheeses such as Roquefort and Stilton with sweet dessert wines like Port or Sauternes

Soft, rich cheeses without overpowering flavors are best with fine, older wines

For a cheese tasting, it is best to serve three to five different cheeses. You should buy a total of two to four ounces of cheese per person. Serve the cheese on a platter, tray or wooden board, placing the whole cheeses on grape leaves or a bed of herbs. Leave enough space around the cheeses for them to breathe. Provide one knife for each cheese, and place the crackers or bread in a separate basket. The cheeses should be served at room temperature.

At a cheese or wine tasting, you should eat the cheeses in the order of their strength, moving from the mildest cheeses to those that are more robust and finely to the strongest and most pungent cheeses. Eat the cheeses slowly and let them melt in your mouth. Then take a sip of wine and enjoy flavor combinations.

Taste is a personal preference. You may prefer one cheese with a particular wine while someone else may like an entirely different pairing. My best recommendation is for you to be in a mood for experiment and enjoyment. Choose several cheeses and several wines. You will find one pairing that is best for you and another for someone else. You can't go wrong. It will create conversation. It will be interesting. It will be delicious. And it will be lots of fun.

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