Wine and cheese go together like Tom and Jerry, Sonny and Cher, and other iconic pairings.

I’m most frequently asked about pairing wine with food. I recently wrote about pairing wine with appetizers. I’ve written about pairing wine with chocolate.

Finding cheese you’ll enjoy is like finding wine you’ll appreciate. You have to taste and taste some more. But the same as wine, many people become intimidated if they find a large selection of cheeses.

And there is so much more to be enjoyed than simple Swiss, cheddar or Gouda.
“I like to introduce people to cheese by doing a cow’s milk, a sheep’s milk, and a goat’s milkcheese,” said Fred Roesner, cheese specialist at Vine and Table in Carmel, In. “And a lot of the people who come in the store, when I say goat, they say ‘no way.’

Those not familiar with goat’s milk have often tasted fresh and very pungent goat cheeses. “They think of the animal, they don’t like it,” Roesner said.

“When they’ve tasted a couple goat cheeses here they go ‘Oh, wow – who knew? There are some wonderful goat cheeses and not all of them are fresh, a lot of them are aged a little bit and they’re delicious.”

Roesner even recommends fooling your guests just a little. “If you’re going to do something, you don’t have to tell people what it is,” he laughed. “You put a good cow’s milk, a good sheep’ s milk or goat cheese out there and throw in some cheddar or something that they recognize and they’ll love it.”

Pairing wine with cheese is similar to pairing wine and food. Seek out cheese that complements the wine or a cheese that will accentuate the wine by contrast.

“If you have a Cabernet that’s a big wine with big tannins, I’d send over a triple crème, very mild and very creamy. If you’re into the medium reds it gives you a whole wide spectrum of inexpensive cheeses that will go nice depending on your tastes.

“If somebody says ‘I’m drinking a Pinot Noir tonight’ I’d say let’s try this and this and this. With Pinot, you can go light. There is a huge body of cheese right in the middle and a huge range of wine right in the middle.

Roesner might chuckle when asked about his “cheese specialist” title. After working in an unrelated industry in L.A. he decided to retire early. He wanted to work in wine but no openings were available. “So for me it’s been on-the-job training,” he said.

He’s spent the past four years learning about cheese and assisting customers in Vine & Table’s gourmet grocery.

“It’s educating people,” he agreed. “If I can introduce something new to somebody and they like it and their friends like it, that’s great to me. You should eat what you like and drink what you like.”

Howard’s picks:
Swiss Gruyere
– Gruyere is often easy to find at a reasonable price. French Comte is the same cheese, but with a richer flavor to my palate. Comte is $12-$14 a pound, the Gruyere a little less.

Triple Cream Goat Cheese – A triple cream, or crème, is the other end of the spectrum. It’s the creamy and mild delicious cheese that Fred recommended above. A good creamy goat cheese is likely to cost you $18 a pound and up.
Don’t let the price scare you, often you’re only buying a quarter or half pound if it’s for nibbling with wine.

Send comment or questions to: