The pairing of cheese and wine can sound confusing, but can lead to delicious combinations. While no guidelines are exact, some general flavor blends are surefire hits. Once you master the basic ideas of wine and cheese tastings, get as experimental as you wish. With good cheese and delicious wine, no combination can be a true disaster.
If you enjoy white wines, common theory suggests enjoying them with soft cheeses. Red wine fans will often be directed toward hard cheese pairings. However, these rules are only suggestions, and the most important element to cheese and wine pairings is the blending of flavors, not textures.
Mild whites such as Sauvignon Blanc pair well with delicately flavored cheese such as Gruyere or Asiago. The flavors will not overwhelm one another and will permit the taster to experience new subtleties in both the cheese and wine. Mild reds, such as fruity Beaujolais, are often paired with Camembert. The light tang of the cheese highlights the fruit flavors, increasing the character of the wine.
For a medium bodied white, such as Chardonnay or Gewürztraminer are delicious served with mild cheddars or mild goat cheeses. These are refreshing combinations that maintain the crisp flavors of both elements. Medium reds, such as Merlot, Chianti, and Shiraz, contain more tannins and somewhat heavier flavors than their lighter siblings, and can stand up to a stronger cheese. Fresh Mozzarella, Pecorino, and medium Cheddars such as Dubliner all go well with medium whites. Medium wines can combine well with a wide variety of cheese flavors, and make excellent bases for experiments.
For truly full bodied or sweet dessert wines, strong cheese and wine matches make an explosive combination for the palette. Aged Gouda or authentic Stilton are stunners when combined with Port. Heavy, spicy Zinfandels match well with strong Bleu cheeses or bright English Cheddar. Flowery Viogniers are often paired with assertive flavors, such as those found in aged goat cheese such as Chevre.
To set up a progressive cheese and wine tasting, it is recommended that you start with light combinations and work toward heavier flavors. Tastings can be based around specific flavors, varieties or colors of wines. One popular way to taste is to choose mild, medium and heavy versions of a cheese like cheddar, and serve with appropriate wines. Alternatively, you could try a tasting of different-bodies Chardonnays, each combined with a separate cheese. If you simply wish to find a cheese to serve that will match a variety of available wines, medium flavors such as Pecorino or mild Brie combine well with many wines.