What pairs better with wine than cheese? This classic match traces its history back centuries, and has never been better thanks to modern production methods. We live in a golden age of premiumization and craft/artisanal products, creating some truly divine combinations between fromage and its age-old partner.
How should you combine them as you relax and host this summer? For suggestions, we recently spoke with Diana Brier, owner and cheese director at Valley Cheese & Wine, Las Vegas’ longest-running cheese and wine store. An all-around cheese aficionado, Brier is one of only 45 people in the U.S to hold a Certified Sensory Evaluator certificate from the American Cheese Society. Here’s what she recommends for summer 2022:
Broadbent Vinho Verde with Pistachio Torta
Diana Brier says: “Broadbent is a high-volume, no-BS vinho verde. It’s what I call a ‘porch slammer’. We sold 1,000 bottles of it last year, which is crazy for a shop my size. It’s an accessible wine both in price range and flavor profile, which makes it an easy grab for everybody and every mood. Are you happy? Vinho verde. Have a bad day? Vinho verde.
Lots of beginners come into the shop looking for something different but friendly, and I point them to that wine — especially in the summer. It has a slight natural effervescence, zippy citrus notes, and a refreshing minerality. I’m usually happy to crack one open for sampling and most customers love it. It’s something different but fun, and is a low barrier to entry into this industry.
For this pairing, I like to ‘keep it cute’. This isn’t meant to get too complicated. We make a pistachio torta in house using fresh chevre, honey and freshly ground pistachios, and it’s another fan favorite of our shop. The torta is tart, sweet, nutty, and creamy. The tartness compliments the wine’s citrus notes, the sweetness contrasts with the wine’s dryness. We work with contrast and compliment in this pairing. That’s how I like to break things down: by extrapolating individual characteristics of each component and pairing them up.”
Ameztoi Rubentis Txakolina Rosado with Holey Cow Baby Swiss
“The wine shows green bell pepper and jalapeno as well as both tart and ripe strawberry notes. It is zesty and juicy, with a nice high acidity and bright minerality that is characteristic of its region.
I pair that with a domestically produced baby swiss called Holey Cow from Central Coast Creamery. It has a characteristic ‘swissy’ flavor profile, and pockets of salty sweetness delivered via a creamier texture than one might expect from this style of cheese.
That texture is what really makes this pairing work. It coats the palate and provides a canvas for the wine to paint its flavors on, and the cheese’s salty sweetness is a perfect compliment to acidity and minerality of the wine. It’s a surprising, playful pairing.”
Penner-Ash Viognier and Tea Rose Goat Cheese
“An example of a master pairing from two female powerhouses in our industry. From winemaker Lynn Penner-Ash in Oregon, this viognier is smooth and elegant with notes of tree fruit, citrus and minerality, but explodes with a beautiful bouquet of florals.
We pair it with Tea Rose from cheesemaker Judy Schad of Capriole Goat Cheese in Indiana. Named after one of the creamery’s best goats who still graces the logo to this day, Tea Rose is a fresh, hand-ladeled chevre that gets a dusting of fennel pollen and is then covered with herbs and flower petals.
The two together are foolproof. Hand-ladeling produces a gorgeous pillowy texture in the chevre. Add in that smooth viognier and the textures combine to flood the palate with wave after wave of complimentary, bright summer flavors. And while all pairings are personal preference, If you hate this pairing, then you just might just be wrong!”
Bonus: How to Drink Red Wine in the Vegas Summer
“Vegas is hot, and that effects the palate and its preferences. The heat here is more assertive and unrelenting, so many steer towards white wines. If you’re a red wine drinker, look for a lighter bodied, fruit forward wine — those can handle a little chill and can be just as refreshing. For those, I like an easy Burgundy pinot or a fun and weird New Zealand cab franc.”
This interview was edited and condensed for publication.
Kyle Swartz is editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent piece The 2022 Spirits Growth Brands Awards — Honoring the Hottest Brands.