The art of pairing wine and cheese is a centuries-old tradition. When you narrow the focus to the vast and vibrant Italian culinary landscape, it becomes an exciting adventure of flavours, textures, and aromas. Italy, known for its rich gastronomic heritage, is home to hundreds of wine varieties and countless cheese types. Combining these two can create a dining experience that's nothing short of sublime. Here's an in-depth guide to pairing Italian wines and cheeses to absolute perfection and impress your guests at your next dinner party!
Chainti & Pecorino Toscano
Before diving into specific pairings, it's essential to grasp some fundamental characteristics of both wine and cheese.
Body: The weight or thickness of wine in your mouth, ranging from light to full-bodied.
Acidity: Wines with high acidity feel tangy and zesty.
Tannins: Primarily found in red wines, tannins offer a drying sensation in the mouth.
Sweetness: Wines can be dry (not sweet) to sweet.
Texture: Cheeses can be soft, semi-soft, semi-hard, or hard.
Age: As cheese ages, its flavour intensifies and its texture hardens.
Fat Content: Influences the creaminess and richness of the cheese.
Classic Italian Wine and Cheese Pairings
Prosecco and Asiago: Prosecco, the sparkling gem from Veneto, has gentle bubbles and a light, fruity profile. Pairing it with Asiago, which also hails from the same region, creates a harmonious blend of creamy and bubbly.
Barolo and Parmigiano-Reggiano: Barolo, known as the "king of wines," is a full-bodied red with high tannins and deep flavours. The hard, salty, and nutty profile of Parmigiano-Reggiano complements the robust nature of Barolo.
Barolo & Parmiggiano Toscano
Chianti and Pecorino Toscano: Chianti, from Tuscany, is medium-bodied with vibrant acidity and cherry notes. Pecorino Toscano, a sheep's milk cheese from the same region, offers a nutty and mildly sharp profile. The two together emphasize the tastes of Tuscany.
Pinot Grigio and Gorgonzola: The crisp and light nature of Pinot Grigio can cut through the rich and creamy profile of Gorgonzola, a blue cheese with a bold flavour.
Amarone della Valpolicella and Taleggio: Amarone, a rich and potent red wine, pairs well with the creamy, semi-soft Taleggio, balancing its strong fruity notes with the cheese's tang.
Verdicchio and Mozzarella: Verdicchio, a crisp white wine, is a lovely match for fresh Mozzarella. Its citrus notes contrast the mild and milky nature of the cheese.
Nebbiolo and Fontina: Nebbiolo wines, known for their tannic structure, pair wonderfully with Fontina's creamy, nutty, and slightly pungent profile.
While wines and cheeses from the same region often pair well due to their inherent harmony, venturing beyond regional boundaries can also yield great results:
Brunello di Montalcino and Asiago: Brunello, a full-bodied Tuscan red, complements the mild and slightly tangy profile of Asiago.
Orvieto and Ricotta: Orvieto, a white wine blend from Umbria, has fruity and floral aromas, making it an excellent match for the soft, fresh, and creamy Ricotta.
Orvieto Bianco & Ricotta
Tips for Successful Pairing
Balance Intensity: Ensure the wine and cheese are of equal strength. A mild cheese should go with a lighter wine, while a potent cheese deserves a robust wine.
Play with Contrasts: Contrasting flavours can be a delicious approach. A sweet wine with salty cheese or a high-acidity wine with creamy cheese can be delightful.
Mind the Tannins: Highly tannic wines can sometimes overpower the cheese. Use them with harder, aged cheeses.
Experiment: There's no one-size-fits-all in pairings. Your palate might appreciate unconventional combinations. Be open to trying various pairings to find your personal favourites.
Prosecco & Asiago
Italy's wine and cheese culture is a testament to the country's rich gastronomic legacy. The diversity in flavours, textures, and aromas offers endless opportunities for creating perfect pairings. Whether you're a seasoned sommelier or a culinary novice, the journey of exploring Italian wine and cheese combinations promises to be a flavorful and enriching experience.
The next time you set the table with a bottle of Italian wine and a platter of assorted cheeses, remember this guide and try some delicious combinations!