Venissimo’s Robert Graff doesn’t believe in hard and fast rules, but does have some helpful guidelines.
When it comes to pairing wine and cheese, there is a local expert you definitely want to consult. Robert Graff, manager of The Academy of Cheese at Venissimo and co-founder of the recently launched venture Liquid City, has been merging the glories of cheese with the nuances of wine for years. PACIFIC tapped Graff, who was also a guest on the magazine’s Dish It Up podcast, to get some tips on how to pair wines — from sparkling to dessert — with the best cheeses from California to Italy.
PACIFIC: Are there any must know rules about pairing cheese and wine?
ROBERT GRAFF: There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to pairing. Taste is subjective and there is never a right or wrong. Your favorite pairing is the best for you. With this in mind, I like to use the term “guidelines” rather than “rules” when it comes to pairing cheese with wine.
What are a few of your guidelines?
A (wine and cheese) pairing can satisfy one or all of the following categories. Complimentary pairs similar flavors that complement each other. One example is fruit with fruit. Contrasting brings together opposite flavors that balance each other. For example, salt with sweet. Texture, for example, would include sparkling wine with triple cream cheese. Regional pairings bring together wine and cheese from the same region; what grows together goes together. Finally, the wildcard guideline is a delicious yet random pairing we discover through “research” (aka, just trying it for yourself).
What are your personal favorite pairings (we asked Graff to match bubbles, white, rosé, red and dessert wines)?
With bubbles, a triple cream is fun for a textural pairing. Champagne is fun with Langres or Chaource, both creamy cow’s milk cheeses from Champagne (region). This pairing is both textural and regional (see Graff’s guidelines above). I also love any sparkling wine with Ewephoria, a sheep’s milk gouda from Holland; pure decadence.
For a Sauvignon Blanc try soft goat cheeses, especially traditional cheese from the Loire Valley (in France) such as Selles-sur-Cher. Also, any number of terrific goat cheeses from Northern California in the same style, for example, Humboldt Fog from Cypress Grove.
With rose, go for light- to medium-strength cheeses, such as slightly aged goats like Robiola from Northern Italy.
When having Cabernet Sauvignon, think big and aged to stand up to the red, like aged cheddars and aged Goudas.
When having dessert wines, blues are best for a nice contrasting pairing. Try gorgonzola, Stilton and Roquefort.
Any final thoughts on the order of pairing cheeses with wine?
Yes, always remember the motto “mild to wild.”
Point Loma: 2820 Historic Decatur Rd., 619.930.9713; North Park: 3007 University Ave., 619.376.1834; Mission Hills: 754 W. Washington St., 619.491.0708; Del Mar: 2650 Via De La Valle, 858.847.9616, venissimo.com