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As I mentioned in my post on the history of cheese and wine in the United States on 7-4-09, today’s post will be about the categories of cheeses.

I’m not an expert on pairing, but I’m learning which pairings taste good to my palate. This post will describe various types of cheeses, while pairings will come later.

The “Cheese & Wine Appreciation Guide,” distributed by the U.S. Dairy Export Council provides a helpful guide for this effort. As my history blog was paraphrased and quoted, this post will do the same.

Man has enjoyed cheese and wine for thousands of years. As grapes are to wine, milk is to cheese. Cheese and wine both represent a way to prepare and preserve surplus supplies so they can be consumed throughout the seasons. They both go through a specific life cycle and period of maturation. They are referred to as quintessential combinations, because each has the ability to enhance the taste of the other. After a taste of cheese, you want more wine, and after a taste of wine, you want more cheese.

Any good flavor combination challenges the palate by the use of flavors that compliment or contrast each other.

Soft Fresh Cheeses

Cream Cheese and Mascarpone can be served plain, as a spread or used in dips. Due to high moisture content, these cheeses carry other flavors well. Sweet flavors from fruits or liquors go well in both. They also work with savory flavors like fresh herbs or garlic.

Soft Ripened Cheeses

These include Brie and Camembert. When selecting a wine to pair with these cheeses, the major factor to consider is the age or ripeness of the cheese. Pair younger Brie with milder, sweeter wines and ripe or mature Brie with fuller drier wines.

Semi-Soft Cheeses

A common denominator in this group of cheeses is that all are made with whole milk and have creamy flavors and textures. Many are American originals. Some Havarti is enriched with cream and known as a double cream cheese. Semi-Soft Cheeses are separated into two distinct categories–dry rind and washed rind. Dry rind semi-soft cheese has no surface ripening and is the mildest (Monterey Jack, Muenster, Italian Style Fontina, Swedish Style Fontina and Havarti). Washed rind or surface ripened semi-soft cheeses yield strong, earthy flavors and pungent aromas in particular Limburger and Surface Ripened Brick tend to pair better with beer than wine.

Blue Cheeses

This includes Blue and Gorgonzola. Even though there are many varieties with unique flavor and texture, most react similarly with wines.

Gouda & Edam Cheeses

Both are available mild or aged and pair well with a range of wines. However, the smoked and caraway varieties work better with beers and ciders.

Pasta Filata Cheeses

This translates in Italian to “Spun Paste or Curd,” and refers to the cheese making procedure where fresh cheese curds are dipped in hot water and stretched or pulled like taffy. Mozzarella, in the U.S. is made in a wide range of styles, including fresh-high moisture, low moisture, part-skim milk and whole milk. Provolone is always made from whole milk and available mild or aged in a wide range of shapes and style, smoked or plain.

Cheddar & Colby Cheeses

Cheddar is the most popular cheese in the U.S. The different styles and ages of Cheddar make each one distinctive. Colby is an American Original, similar to mild Cheddar, it is served mild or young.

Swiss Cheeses

Baby Swiss and Aged Swiss contain holes or “eyes” as cheese makers refer to them. As they age, certain cultures produce carbon dioxide which expands to form the holes. Gruyere and Raclette are also Swiss style cheeses, but are washed rind or surface ripened. They have very few eyes and develop more intense butter and earthy flavors with age.

Hard Cheeses

This includes Parmesan, Asiago, Romano and Pepato. Parmesan is known as the “King of Cheeses,” and is one of the oldest cheese known with references dating back almost 1,000 years. These cheeses are also known as “Grana,” referring to the granular texture they develop with long aging.

Romano and Pepato are sharper and more enzymatic in their flavor compared to the rest of this family, and tend to pair best with beers and ciders.

I’ve covered the cheeses. Unfortunately or fortunately, I love all cheeses. They are a trigger food for me and I thoroughly enjoy the indulgence and experience.

I’m going to go into pairing, but I don’t want this post to go on forever.

Maralyn D. Hill, President
International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association
Books By Hills Success Log Global Log

“Success” was Finalist in the Writing and Publishing category of the 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards