Pairing Italian wine & cheese 101

Pairing Italian wine & cheese 101

Italy produces some of the finest wines and cheeses in the world. Separately, they are already delicious. But, as with any food and wine pairing, when enjoyed together wine and cheese, can elevate the flavors and take the tasting experience to a new level. 

Historians have recorded that wine and cheese from the same region in Europe have been paired together for generations. And the notion of “what grows together goes together” still exists today, especially in Italy. But pairing cheese and wine can also be a delicious endeavor of experimentation.  

“One of the things that makes cheese such a ubiquitous accompaniment to wine is the tremendous versatility of pairing options available,” says Kirk Peterson, wine expert and educator. “The abundance of protein and fat in cheese have a softening and magnifying effect on many wines that tends to show them in their best light. So whether you choose a wine to compliment or contrast you’re practically guaranteed to have a delicious combination.”

Some of the things to consider when partnering cheese with wine is to consider intensity, acidity, flavors and texture.  

“It’s a good rule of thumb that light goes with light; bold with bold,” says Anthony Gochal, GM of Restaurants at Eataly Las Vegas at Park MGM. “Fresh, simple cheeses are enhanced by elegant, delicate wines. For example, an elegant white Falanghina with delicate Mozzarella di Bufala. Similarly, a robust red can take on the bigger flavors of a stronger cheese like a Barolo with flavorful Grana Padano DOP.”

Sweet wines are also a great partner for funkier styles of wine, such as the blue cheeses.

“Often the most magical pairings with sweet wines are cheeses that are in contrast to the sweetness of the wine,” says Peterson. “Consider the pungency of Gorgonzola Picante against a Recioto della Valpolicella.”

Photo: Courtesy of Eataly

Recommended pairings for some popular Italian cheeses:

Mozzarella di Bufala
The creamy,  supple cheese made from Italian buffalo milk  has a tanginess and depth of flavor that’s all its own. This can be attributed to water buffalo milk’s high fat content — nearly double that of cow’s milk.  A blank, rich canvas calls for fresh, crisp wines: Fiano di Avellino, Timorasso, Verdicchio dei Castello di Jesi 

Parmigiano Reggiano
The king of cheeses, is an extraordinary cheese with amazing aromas and flavors and a unique texture. It makes almost every wine (and every dish) taste better. Due to its complexity, aged wines – whether white or red – are great choices:   Lambrusco di Sorbara, Amarone della Valpolicella, Brunello di Montalcino.  And for contrast, try  something on the sweeter side: Lambrusco Dolce

Fontina Val d’Aosta 
A high fat content gives this cheese a rich and creamy texture, which gets nuttier with age. Wine made from Nebbiolo is a perfect match or other vibrant reds from the northern Italian region: Barbaresco, Barolo, Gattinara, Langhe Nebbiolo, Dolcetto

This cheese has a crumbly and soft texture with a nutty aroma. It can have a mild to sharp taste depending on its age and come in Gorgonzola Dolce (also called Sweet Gorgonzola) and Gorgonzola Piccante. These often go well with sweet wines: Recioto della Valpolicella, Soave Passito

Where to experience Italian wine and cheese?A few places to indulge in a wide and diverse selection of Italian cheeses and wine in Las Vegas include: Esther’s Kitchen, Pizzeria Monzu, Ada’s, Ferraro’s, La Strega, Locale Italian Kitchen, and Eataly Las Vegas.

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