Сырный Сомелье Юрис Семёновс

Cheese sommelier: “This is a mystical thing”

“Finding the perfect combination of cheese and wine is difficult, it’s a lot of work,” says Juris Semenov, cheese sommelier at the Riga restaurant Vincents. – But if you approach this issue in a simplified way, I would remind you that red wines are in better harmony with hard types of cheeses, and white wines are better in harmony with soft ones – both with goat and sheep. But Camembert, for example, is good with both red and white wine. ” “The grape variety is also important,” says the cheese sommelier, by the way, the only one in Latvia. – So, Sauvignon Blanc goes well with goat cheeses. The regional alignment principle works very well. “If you have cheese from a specific region, then local wine should go with it. This is perhaps the most reliable way – it’s hard to go wrong here. This is a mystical thing, but it is true. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the soil on which the grapes grow is the same where the grass grows, which will be eaten by the cow, from whose milk cheese will be made. ”

There are also ideal, well-established combinations of specific cheeses and wines – for example, Roquefort and Sauternes, Stilton and port. In general, to inexperienced people – amateurs – Juris advises not to complicate this issue. “Just take your favorite wine – it doesn’t matter whether it is white or red. It will go well with your favorite cheese. After all, if you do not like blue cheese, you will not buy it – and no wine will make it better for you. ” Of course, a professional approach is another matter. “Here you have to try each specific cheese with each specific wine, compare, see if this cheese does not kill the wine, and vice versa. This requires a fairly deep knowledge. ” What pair does the expert consider to be the best he has ever tasted? “Comté cheese aged 18 months with Chablis Grand Gru,” admits Yuris Semenov. – It’s just super!”


Cheeses and wines. Choosing pairs

Сочетания твёрдых сыров с вином

Hard cheeses

Comté, Pecorino (from sheep’s milk),
Parmigiano-Reggiano, Manchego (from sheep’s milk)

It is believed that rich dry white wines or medium-bodied reds are suitable for hard cheeses, since their tannins and “weight” will harmonize pleasantly with the structure of such cheeses.

Red blended Bordeaux wines, as well as Pinor Noir, Chianti, Nebbiolo, Rioja are suitable for hard cheeses. From whites you can choose Burgundy, yellow wines, Condrieu (banks of the Rhone).

Gourmets also advise not to get carried away with too strong or too old hard cheeses – it is more difficult to match them with a wine pair. This is especially true for cheeses aged for more than two years.


Сочетание мягкого сыра с вином

Soft cheeses

Brie, Camembert, Chaource, Vacherin, Saint-Marcellin, Saint-Félicien

Not very popular in Latvia, but adored in France, soft cheeses (à pâte molle, as the French say) often have a complex character, especially when it comes to aged cheeses. Finding the right wine for them is not an easy task.

Nevertheless, beaujolais or light Pinot Noir are considered quite a proven option. Of the whites, Vouvray (Loire Valley), Chablis and champagne are recommended. In principle, other carbonated wines are in good harmony with similar cheeses. Their acidity will be pleasantly combined with the increased fat content of Camembert and Brie.


Сочетания сыра с плесенью с вином

Blue cheeses

Bleu d’Auvergne, Bleu des Causses, Gorgonzola, Roquefort (from sheep’s milk)

Everything here seems to be quite simple: sweet wines go well with blue cheeses. It is especially good if the cheese has a creamy taste – the combination will turn out great. Of the wines, Sauternes or Montbazillac are especially recommended, but you should not overdo it with sweetness – moderation is good here.

“Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” reads the text of the traditional prayer for the dead. Supplemented with the words “mold to mold”, it can become a mnemonic rule for choosing wine for blue cheeses. Both Sauternes and Montbazillac are made from grapes covered with Botrytis cinerea, a mold. Other wines that have been touched by the “noble mold” (pourriture noble – this is how French winemakers call this gift of God) will also perfectly accompany blue cheese.


Сочетания сыра из овечьего и козьего молока с вином

Goat and Sheep Cheese

Crottin de Chavignol, Picodon, Valençay, Roncal, Ossau-iraty

Most goat’s milk cheeses go well with wine made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes, preferably from the Loire Valley. In general, any light wine with good acidity is suitable – for example, white Bordeaux or Chenin Blanc. If the cheese is older, it can be accompanied by a richer white from the banks of the Rhone.

As for cheeses made from sheep’s milk, red wines from the southern part of the Rhone, as well as red and rosé Spanish wines, are suitable for them.

Experts advise avoiding over-aged sheep and goat cheeses, as with age they acquire such a strong ammonia flavor that it can overpower the taste of almost any wine.


Сочетание мягкого сыра с отмытой корочкой с вином

Soft cheeses with a washed crust

Époisses, Langres, Livarot, Mahon, Maroilles, Munster, Pont-l’Évêque, Taleggio, Rollot, Niolo

Cheese with a washed crust (à croûte lavée) has a very pungent smell, and it is not easy to find a pair for them. Therefore, the basic rule is: avoid aged varieties, take those that are younger. For Époisses, for example, a wine from the same region is suitable – red Burgundy. Another good regional combination is the Alsatian Munster cheese and the Alsatian Gewurztraminer.

In general, spicy aromatic wines like the Alsatian Pinot Gris are preferable for this type of cheese. Spicy Spanish rosés or Rioja with soft tannins are also great. Aged, expensive Spanish wines are not the best choice for such specific cheeses.


Cheese Sommelier Tips

One thing for all – we will not stand for the price

Having fluently studied the unthinkable number of cheese-wine combinations, any person who is not very experienced in this matter will sooner or later have a question: is there a universal wine that can be served with any cheese? Well, for example, in the event that you have a whole range of very different cheeses, and the choice of wine is limited to one bottle?

Some sommeliers claim that there is a general recipe, but its versatility is, of course, very relative. We are talking about fortified wines – those that are served at the end of a meal as a digestif. They go well with all types of cheeses, as well as those appetizers that usually accompany cheeses – nuts, jams and dried fruits. By the way, serving one type of cheese and a specific wine to it is quite comme il faut.

Yuris Semenov, however, does not recommend getting too carried away with fortified wines – this is a thing for everybody. “Yes, this is a good example – fortified wine. But still, it is better to give preference to the usual dry, – he believes. “If you like, say, sweet wines, then please, no problem.”

Watch age

There is also such a law – watch your age. When ripe, most cheeses acquire a sharper aroma and flavor, while the opposite happens with wine. Therefore, you should not serve the same expensive old cheese with an expensive old wine – this logic (expensive with expensive, best with the best) does not work here.

In general, if you start choosing a pair with cheese, then, knowing its character, you should choose something less strong from the wines, so that its taste serves as a background.

Village wedding

Another simple rule, which has already been mentioned by cheese expert Yuris Semenov: wines of a particular region usually set off well the taste of cheeses from the same area, ideally from the same village. For example, Sancerre wine and Crottin de Chavignol goat cheese from the same canton, which is called Sancerre, are simply great together.

Or such an example: Comté cheese – by the way, the best-selling cheese in France (eaten up to 60 thousand tons per year), will be great friends, or, as the French say, “marry” yellow wines from the Jura department, which is part of the region Franche-Comté, which gave the name to the cheese.

But regional conformity is, of course, not a dogma. In practice, sometimes wines and cheeses from different countries complement each other quite well – for example, the British Stilton and the French Sauternes.