As each year comes to an end, we gather around family and friends to indulge in seasonal dishes paired with the merriment of wine or a great cocktail. And while sweets are nice, nothing quite says “the holidays” like a well- arranged assortment of cheeses and an exceptional glass of vino.
When perfectly paired, the right wine can make even the funkiest of cheeses appealing, bringing out the flavors and nuances that make it unique. So we asked wine experts to indulge us in their top pairings. Their picks include decadent other-worldly cheeses, one even made at an abbey by nuns, and an intriguing tomato eau de vie. Whether you’re creating a charcuterie masterpiece or just a small snack, taking note of these pro-approved pairings will have your taste buds singing.
Here, seven sommeliers share their favorite wine and cheese pairings of the year.
The Best Wine and Cheese Pairings, According to Sommeliers
- Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Bordeaux and Trappe d’Echourgnac
- Casot dan Vian Chardonnay and Alta Langa Robiola Bosina
- Vin Jaune and Comté
- Macvin du Jura Hors d’Age Chardonnay and Rogue River Blue
- Tomato Eau de Vie and P’tit Basque
- Pierre Ferrand Pineau des Charentes and Parmigiano Reggiano
- Erath 2019 Oregon Pinot Noir and Champignon Triple-Cream
Keep reading for details about all of the recommended bottles!
“One of my all-time favorite wine and cheese pairings was at Chateau la Dominique in Saint-Emilion. My wife and I discovered a fantastic local cheese there called Trappe d’Echourgnac. It’s a pressed, uncooked cow’s cheese made by the nuns at the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Bonne-Espérance. The rind is scrubbed with the rinds of previous cheese ferments and washed with walnut liqueur. It’s a very complex cheese that deserves a majestic wine like a Saint-Emilion grand cru. The savory, earthy flavors of the cheese complement the gentle funk and subdued fruit of a good Right Bank Bordeaux. Merlot’s velvety tannins help to lubricate the firm texture of the cheese. I’ve recreated this pairing back home with a reasonable rate of success. As a substitute for Trappe d’Echourgnac, you can pick up a Saint-Nectaire or Port Salut — which are easier to find — and you can experiment with other Merlots. The best ones for this pairing, in my opinion, come from regions like Bordeaux or Northern Italy. You want that characteristic ‘dusty-old-library-meets-Christmas-spice’ quality in the wine. It’s a great wine and cheese combo for the holidays. It makes you feel warm and fuzzy!” —Myles Trapp, Sommelier, Auberge du Soleil, Napa, Calif.
“The best wine and cheese pairing I’ve tried this year is Alta Langa’s Robiola Bosina with a crisp glass of Piemontese Chardonnay. The particular bottle I had was Casot Dan Vian from an organic winery called Scagliola Sansi. However, Chardonnay from Piedmont, or Langhe more specifically, can be fairly elusive here in the United States so I wouldn’t get hung up on finding the exact same bottle. Any bottle you find should have the perfect amount of creaminess and yellow-apple tang to illuminate the flavors of the cheese while not breaking the bank. Robiola Bosina is a soft-ripened cheese that I love to introduce to folks who love Brie. It has a beautifully buttery texture that easily spreads on crackers and, when followed by a sip of the wine, explodes with flavors of truffle and hazelnut.” —Jaryd M. Spann, Sommelier, Maialino Mare, Washington, D.C.
“My favorite wine and cheese pairing is Comté cheese and Vin Jaune. They are both local specialities of the Jura Massif region in eastern France. Comté is made with unpasteurized cow’s milk cheese and is semi-hard, with a distinct nuttiness and slight fruitiness. Vin Jaune is produced with the local Savagnin grape and resembles Fino Sherry in flavor and body, but unlike sherry, is unfortified. The wine is aged under a thin veil of yeast in small oak casks for a minimum of six years and results in a beautiful golden straw-colored wine with notes of toasted hazelnuts, salt, fennel seeds, and curry. The pronounced aromatics of both the cheese and wine, and the two together, are the stuff of Alpine dreams.” —Rania Zayyat, Wine Director, Bufalina, Austin, Texas
“One of the eight courses featured within Christopher’s tasting menu is a lovely cheese course with Rogue River Blue cheese. I like to pair it with a 2006 Macvin du Jura Hors d’ Âge Chardonnay. The wine is aged 10 years in a single barrel and is 16 percent [alcohol by volume], but it isn’t noticeably strong because the alcohol is so well integrated. The zingy acidity and right amount of sweetness balance it to perfection, and it’s powerful enough to handle the strong bold flavors of blue cheese. —Paola Embry, Wine Director, Wrigley Mansion, Phoenix
“The most interesting pairing I’ve had recently was with a tomato eau de vie from a cool guy in Southwest France called Laurent Cazotte. He’s a really talented winemaker utilizing local grape varieties, but also has an incredible range of eaux de vie made from his garden. This fruit-based spirit is based on 70 or so varieties of tomatoes, all organically farmed, and is insanely aromatic and pure. I drank a glass with some Basque cheese called P’tit Basque. It’s a medium-hard goat cheese with a rind. Nothing too funky but it has its edginess which complements the intensity of the tomato liquor, but subtle enough to let the purity of fruit shine. It’s bomb and I’m adding it to my beverage program for sure. It ain’t cheap, though, so it’s for the nerds, for sure.” —Daniel Dooreck, Beverage Director and Assistant General Manager, Cabra, Los Angeles
“I revisited an old-school aperitif this year, Pineau des Charentes. While not technically a ‘wine’ per se, as it is a ‘mistelle,’ this versatile style can work well with desserts; think crème brûlée, an apple tart, or a wide variety of cheeses in a cheese course. But my favorite wine and cheese pairing this year came down to Pierre Ferrand’s Pineau des Charentes with a classic Parmigiano Reggiano. Both have incredible nutty, round, scrumptious, and oxidized characteristics, and the medium sweetness of the aperitif wine plays wonderfully against the salty depth of the cheese.” —Evan Danielson, Certified Sommelier, Empire Distributors, Nashville
“The best wine and cheese pairing I’ve tried this year was Champignon Triple-Cream from Bavaria, Germany, paired with Erath Pinot Noir 2019 from Oregon. Picture the ooziest, gooiest Camembert you’ve ever tasted, but studded with handpicked mushrooms! It has buttery richness with a soft earthiness — cheese heaven. It’s a knockout with Pinot Noir; the subtle earthy notes of the Erath were a fantastic complement to the mushrooms and the wine has the kind of vibrant acidity that balances out creamy cheeses. Usually, I lean towards white wine with cheese, but this was a welcome discovery — and something I will definitely be serving up guests through the whole holiday season and beyond!” —Sarah Tracey, sommelier and founder, The Lush Life, New York