Homage au Fromage, by Jane Parkinson
Why? Because its inherent freshness cuts through cheese’s fatty content much better than a chewy red wine would. And so perhaps it’s one of the wine world’s best-kept secrets that South West France – with all its indigenous and delicious white grape varieties to offer – is in fact a Mecca for cheese-friendly wines. So let’s dive in.
White cheeses that are chalky in texture and/or salty in flavour, like goat’s cheese and halloumi, are notorious for working wonders with Sauvignon Blanc. But this isn’t an exclusive pairing by any means, so for something slightly different but just as successful a match, try the dry white wines of Gaillac, which are made from punchy native grapes such as Mauzac and Loin de l’Oeil and are tongue-tingling, crisp, fruity and salty. Sometimes these whites even have a drop of Sauvignon Blanc blended into them too,.
Crumbly cheeses, such as feta, Wensleydale and Caerphilly are also best served with a fruity and fresh white wine. To match these, it’s worth buying a bottle of dry white wine from Côtes de Gascogne. Local grapes here such as Ugni Blanc, Gros Manseng and Colombard (as well as Sauvignon Blanc sometimes too) make fruity, slightly textured white wines with bags of apple-flavoured freshness.
Richer, Alpine-based cheeses, such as Comté and Gruyère, as well as Spain’s most famous sheep cheese Manchego, are crying out for wines with plenty of depth to the flavour all the while being tense with freshness. And so step forward the white wines from the Basque region of Irouléguy, or even the dry Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh wines. These really make the most of indigenous varieties such as Gros Manseng, Arrufiac and Petit Courbu by being zingy, sometimes smoky, and full of nutty and herbaceous flavours.
These wines would also serve a richly-flavoured Cheddar well, but if you’re interested in tracking down something unique, go for a Chardonnay from the Pyrenean region of Ariège which can have a lovely nutty and waxy flavour.
As we all know, sweet wines are hedonistic in their own right, but even more so when paired with two types of cheese styles; salty blue cheese such as Roquefort, Stilton or Gorgonzola, and washed rind powerfully-flavoured cheeses like Munster or Epoisses. There are two no-brainer places to look in South West France to meet your wine needs here. Firstly the sweet Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh wines, often made with Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng, they’re full of luscious honey and apricot flavours. Or else go to Gaillac and indulge in their delicious honeycomb and marmalade-rich sweet wines.