Everyone knows that cheese and wine go together like coffee and cream. What most people don’t know, however, is that white wine is generally easier to pair with cheese. Before the red wine lovers grab their pitchforks, we still love our bold dry reds, but if we had to grab one bottle of wine to pair with the most cheeses possible—it would be a white wine.
Whether you’re planning a cheese board for a fancy Friday night or just need to know why that blue cheese and Riesling you tried went so well together, we’ve got the answers in this white wine and cheese pairing guide.
The Basics of White Wine and Cheese Pairing
To help us with wine pairing suggestions and guidelines we interviewed award-winning food and drink author, cheese pairing expert, and fellow Wisconsin cheese lover Jeanette Hurt.
How Are Red and White Wines Different?
It’s all about the grapes. White wine is generally made with light green, pink, or white grapes, while red wine is made with darker grapes. The differences don’t stop there, however.
Once picked, the winemaking process for white and red wines differs as well.
Red wines are fermented with all parts of the grape (skins and seeds included), while white wines are pressed to remove the skin and seeds before fermenting.
Why does this matter? The seeds and skin of the grape are what give red wines their prominent tannins. These tannins—although delicious—can make cheese pairing more of a challenge.
Tannins and Cheese Pairing
What exactly are tannins? Jeanette explains, “If you bite into a tea bag, or the skin of an apple, that astringent bitterness you taste—that’s a tannin.”
In practice, this means that white wines generally pair more readily with a larger variety of cheeses.
While we still cherish our big bold red wines, these tannins can make often overpower the flavor and creaminess of cheese. Luckily, white wines are naturally lower in tannins compared to their red relatives.
Our Favorite White Wines for Cheese Pairing
This white wine is pretty much one-size-fits-all. If you’re new to the delicious world of wine and cheese, start with a Riesling—you can’t go wrong. This German wine is flowery and aromatic with fairly high acidity, making it taste fresh and crisp. Jeanette swears by having a bottle of Riesling on hand for every impromptu cheese board.
Must-try Riesling and Cheese Pairings:
Sauvignon Blanc is every twenty-something’s choice at the bar, for good reason: it’s crisp, light, and refreshing. This wine is delicately flavored, so it’s best to opt for a cheese that matches its intensity.
Rather than aged, ultra-flavorful cheeses, we love milky, slightly-sweet cheeses that are fairly young in maturity. Sauvignon Blanc and Wisconsin Brick are a match made in cheese-lover heaven.
Must-try Sauvignon Blanc and Cheese Pairings:
The word that springs to mind when someone mentions Chardonnay? Buttery. This unctuous, full-bodied white wine is one of the most popular choices across the country. With this wine, we recommend choosing a cheese that is complementary—like butterkäse, a rich, buttery cheese—or contradictory, like a dry, sharp aged parmesan.
No matter which cheese you choose, if it’s from Wisconsin, we’re confident it’ll be gobbled up in no time.
Must-try Chardonnay and Cheese Pairings:
Pinot grigio, or pinot gris, originally hails from the Alsace region of France. Sweet, rich, and slightly spicy, this dry wine pairs well with creamier cheese varieties. We think it’s très belle with some fresh ‘ella. Mozzarella, that is.
Must-try Pinot Grigio and Cheese Pairings
Dry, full-bodied, and bright, pinot blanc is—unsurprisingly—the lighter, more fun sister of pinot noir. It has all the making of a great cheese pairing: crisp, refreshing, and acidic. Pinot blanc pairs well with fresh cheeses that are soft, creamy, and oh-so-good. Nobody puts baby (swiss) in the corner.
Must-try Pinot Blanc and Cheese Pairings:
Answer All Your Cheese Pairing Questions
Ready to learn more about cheese pairing? We’ve covered everything you need to know about pairing cheese with wine, food, beer, and more. Start with our beginner’s guide or just dive into whatever topic suits your fancy. Explore a world of cheese pairing at your fingertips.
Wine and Cheese Pairing
Liquor and Cheese Pairing
Cheese Board Essentials
Flex your cheese pairing muscles and get creative, or try one of our cheese board recipes, like this Summertime Cheese Board or this Sweet and Savory Brunch Cheese Board. If you want to cook a full meal try our selection of over 300 handcrafted recipes featuring Wisconsin Cheese. Share your creation with us on Instagram or Facebook and become part of the largest cheese community in the world.
Want to make cheese pairing even easier? You can plan your cheese board ahead of time and get your favorite Wisconsin cheeses delivered right to your door with our continuously updated list of cheesemakers and retailers that allow you to order cheese online. Award-winning Wisconsin cheese is just a click away.
What cheese goes with white wine?
Three of our favorite cheeses to have alongside white wine are gouda, havarti, and aged cheddar. Although we generally recommend picking the cheese based on the wine, these three will pair on some level with nearly any variety of white wine out there.
Does white wine and cheese pair well?
Pairing well would be an understatement. White wine and cheese are the pairing equivalent of soul mates. If you’re at the store and having trouble picking a wine, pick a Riesling. A Riesling will pair well with almost any cheese—you won’t be disappointed!
What cheeses are best with sauvignon blanc?
Sauvignon blanc is a light refreshing white wine that pairs well with many different cheeses. Three of our favorites are brick, muenster, and gouda. The acidity from the sauvignon blanc is just enough to balance out these rich butter cheeses.