Red Wine and Cheese: A Primer to Help You Become Familiar With Both




Most wine connoisseurs will tell you that red wine is the cream of the crop. Red wines are velvety and rich, often dry, appeal to a more cultured palate, and pair wonderfully with cheese. Not that white wines don’t have their place, but red wines tend to take longer to get into and appeal to someone with a more mature taste in wine. Red wine and cheese is a common pairing, so let’s have a look and see what the different types are all about and how they pair up with cheese and other foods!

The first of type of red wine is Shiraz. Shiraz, which is also known as Syrah, is a wine that usually comes from California, Australia, or the French Rhone Valley. Shiraz goes great with red meat and many cheeses. It will often have flavors of wild black fruit, roasting meat and black pepper spice.

Next there is Merlot. Merlot is often maligned and is grown all over the planet. It is very soft, which is what led to it becoming the “introductory red” for many nascent wine drinkers. Merlot typically features flavors of black cherry, plum and herbs. It goes great just about anything really, so it is a slam dunk when it comes to the “red wine and cheese” model.

Then you have Cabernet sauvignon, AKA “Cab” for short. Cabernet sauvignon grows anywhere except the coldest winemaking regions and is often blended with other red wines. Cabernet sauvignon features a very strong, full-bodied flavor and goes great with simply-prepared red meats and softer cheeses.

Next up yuo have Malbec, a red borne of the French Bordeaux – though it grown all over the world these days. Malbec usually tastes of plums, berries and spice and goes with all sorts of cheeses and meats.

Then there is Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir originated from the French Burgundy region and is often very delicate and fresh, with flavors of strawberry, cherry, plum and faint tones of damp earth, worn leather and tea leaves. This red goes great with some kinds of cheeses, chicken, lamb, or grilled salmon.

Next there is Zinfandel, a purely Californian wine. Zinfandel is a very versatile grape and can even be used to make white wine. This red tends to be very zesty, with flavors of pepper and berry. Its pairing vary widely depending on its freshness and heaviness, but it usually goes great with barbecued and grilled meats, tomato-based pastas, pizza, and cheeses used in Italian dishes.

Sangiovese, as you can probably guess from the nomenclature, is very popular in Italy, which is where it originated. Sangiovese goes great with Italian cheeses and dishes and other Mediterranean dishes and features fresh plum and berry flavors.

The last red on our list is Barbera. Barbera originated in Italy, but has become very widespread in California nowadays. Barbera wines are very versatile, but often go well with tomato sauces and stouter cheeses. Look for flavors of plum and juicy black cherry.

Hopefully that’s not too confusing. There are eight major types of red wine, but there is stil plenty of variation within each type. Quite often, the difference between one year and the next within the same varietal can be drastic, so just imagine the difference between wines within the same varietal gorwn in California versus wines grown in Italy! Wines have character from all across the board, so you have to keep an open mind when trying them, but always keep the “red wine and cheese” model in mind when thinking of a pairing!

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