Science Says That White Wine Pairs Better With Cheese-- But We're Not Buying It

White wine with white meat, red wine with red meat — it’s a stereotypical pairing rule that we’ve all heard at least once in our lives. A new study finds confirmation of this received wisdom in an odd food: cheese.

According to NPR, studies show that white wine makes a better pairing companion with cheese than its red counterpart. An experiment was conducted with 31 consumers. Each was given four different wines — one sweet white, one dry white, and two dry reds. The consumers tasted the wine on their own, then tasted them again after having a bite of three different cheeses. Not surprisingly, consumers found the wines more pleasurable after having eaten some of the snack. “With so many combinations, the detailed results are complex,” NPR warns, though the consumers seemed to prefer the whites with cheese, and rated the reds with more sourness and astringency, “which would probably be considered negative.”

We’re calling BS. Let’s start with Ed Behr, editor of the Art of Eating newsletter, telling NPR that sweetness in wine could make it better for a cheese pairing. We agree, but in that case, why was there no sweet red included in the mix? The results of this don’t seem entirely valid if only one sweet wine pairing as assessed — and it was a white. Isn’t that like stacking the deck? For a more level playing field, one dry and one sweet of each color wine could have been a fairer assessment — and possibly changed the results entirely.

Another reason we’re not buying the white wine claim is the science behind tannin and fat. We pair red wines with thick cuts of steak because the tannins in wine binds with the fats in food to create a softer, more pleasurable palate, highlighting the best flavors in both food and wine when meshed together and creating a higher quality gastronomical experience. Cheese is very fatty, so there’s no doubt that red wine is the better choice — red wines have higher tannins than white wines due to skin and stem contact during the winemaking process.

That’s not to say that certain cheeses don’t pair better with white wines. The regional pairing of a glass of dry white Sancerre and goat cheese is to die for. The white dessert wine from Sauternes is heavenly with blue cheese. White wines and cheese make equally sublime pairings as cheese and red wines — but we don’t buy it that science has chosen one over the other.