What to DRINK with That – Cheeses

from left: Frances Sidhe, DJ Kearney, Terry Threlfall

DRINK editor Treve Ring asks local wine experts how they would approach pairing dishes and flavours. This edition: CHEESES. 

1 – Triple Cream Brie

2 – Salty, Aged Hard Cheese 

3 – Strong Blue

4 – Local Chevre

*bonus questions – how would you pair a mixed charcuterie platter?


Our Experts:

DJ Kearney (DJ)
Wine Instructor, Consultant, Chef

DJ Kearney is a Vancouver-based wine educator, wine writer, judge, presenter and chef.  She has trained hundreds of sommelier candidates from across North America in Vancouver, Victoria,  Portland, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, to name a few of her regular lecture destinations.  A diverse background in wine, food and geology makes her uniquely qualified to guide the discovery of the world’s wine regions, the sharpening of palates, the understanding of terroir and the chemistry of food and wine harmony.

Frances Sidhe (FS)
Sommelier, Zambri’s

Frances Sidhe received her Certification in 2001 and has worked as a Sommelier at Zambri’s since then.  She loves the rich diversity and unique nature of Italian wines.  Her wine program recently won both Most Diner Friendly Wine Menu and Best Overall Wine Program in the 2011 Taste Wine List Awards.

Terry Threlfall,
Sommelier, Wine Director, Hawksworth Restaurant           

Guided by his love for wine and dedication to his craft, Terry has compiled an exciting wine collection at Hawksworth Restaurant to compliment the contemporary and seasonal cuisine. Threlfall’s expertise stems from over a decade spent in London, working as Head Sommelier and Wine Buyer at Michelin starred restaurant, Chez Bruce. His team won a number of international awards under his watch, including “overall UK Wine Establishment of the Year” and “European Wine Restaurant of the Year”.




Triple Cream Brie

DJ – Opulent, rich yet earthy brie demands an equally weighty wine with ample acidity to tame the decadent cream content.   Acid-driven whites with a rich core of fruit and minerality like Chablis or Meursault (ideally with a touch of age); dry chenin blanc from Vouvray or Savennieres; well-oaked new world chardonnay too, as long as the wood is well integrated in the wine.  Reds can shine with brie but ensure they are fruity and fleshy with decent acidity like Priorato, southern Rhone or new world blends.

FS – My best choice would be a relatively young Macon Village Chardonnay.  With a cheese this creamy you need to match weight for weight. These wines also have well balanced acidity while some other choices that might work are just too acidic which results in an unpleasant sourness.

TT – Brie is a tough cheese to pair with wine because it’s so creamy but my pick would be a well aged vintage Champagne. If I had to pick only one producer, my personal favourite would be Bollinger R.D. 1988


Salty, aged hard cheese

DJ – Salt is a catalyst for sublime wine and cheese pairing.  It can uncover background fruit in savoury, aged wines, like Bordeaux, Barolo, or Tuscan heavy hitters, and mature Amarone.  Young, powerful reds (BC meritage, Cali cab, northern Rhone) work well too, where fat and protein wrestle young tannins into submission, and salt complements exuberant fruit.  Mature wooded white Rioja and briney sherries are also sophisticated pairings.

FS –Here, I absolutely love a younger Cabernet/Sangiovese blend from Tuscany. The bright fruit of the Cabernet and the approachable acidity and tannins of the Sangiovese pair beautifully with the briny taste and texture of this cheese.

TT – I would pick full bodied, full flavoured reds from Piedmont or Veneto.


Strong blue cheese

DJ – Blue welcomes sweet reds and whites in a special way.  Pungent, creamy and salty flavours require intensity and persistence in the wine, so choose ruby or tawny port, or the classic dessert whites like Sauternes, Tokaji or Australian stickies. Rich  Alsatian whites and Auslese riesling can be a treat with strong blues, and funky, minerally whites like dry Furmint from Hungary, or savoury Italian Greco and Vermentino are off-beat, adventurous choices.

FS – An Amarone definitely.  But one which falls into the category of Vino di Meditazione which means it is a wine to sip by itself or with cheese as its weight and lushness would be overwhelming with anything else. High in alcohol and almost port like in its intensity it is a perfect wine for this time of year.

TT – I recommend a botrytised whites from Bordeaux such as a Sauternes to match the power of a nice, ripe blue cheese.


Local Chevre

DJ – This invites our home-grown aromatic whites yet can handle leafy reds.  The connection here is acidity combined with intensity.  Choose wines with zingy punch to neutralize the tangy, acidic cheese.   Pay attention to what the French do:  in the Loire, a tumbler of light, herbal cabernet franc with moist, young chevre works, so stick to cool-climate reds with delicate tannins.  If the chevre is aged and extra pungent, stick to whites with mouthwaering acidity, like sauvignon blanc, chenin or dry riesling with Tantalis-like ripping acidity!  Sweet yet grassy late-harvest sauvignon blanc partners well too.

FS – Lately I have re-discovered my love for Friulano, a grape found in the north of Italy and I think it would make a very interesting pairing with some of our local Chevre.  The softer versions I am thinking of require a wine of distinction but the subtle bouquet and medium weight of this wine will match but not overwhelm this cheese.

TT – I would choose a dry, classic white that is vibrant and steely such as a Sauvignon Blanc or a Vouvray Sec from the Loire.


 Bonus: Charcuterie Platter

DJ –  I’m an all-season rosé addict, and I’d choose a flavourful, juicy, well-structured dry pink to take on the fat, spice, and meatiness of a mixed charcuterie platter.  France and Spain offer many great cured meat-worthy rosés, but if allowed to be shamelessly partisan, I’d pair the Bartier Scholefield Rose 2010.  This all-gamay Okanagan pink reverberates with piercing red berry flavours with a dusting of black sage and minerals.  Self-consciously dry, fresh and zesty the BS Rosé was built for savoury flavours like charcuterie.

FS – My favourite pairing with all our cured meats is called Scaia from Tenuta Sant’Antonio.  It is made with 100% Corvina, one of the grapes traditionally found in Valpolicella, but I actually like it better than most of the Valpolicella out there. The dark cherry notes, crisp edge and medium intensity are just what you need with the rich, smoky and salty flavours of Charcuterie.

TT – I would like something briny, racy, fun, fresh, vibrant, dry, intense, even salty like a Manzanilla Sherry from Sam Lucar de Barrameda, Spain.

Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ...

Comments are closed.