Last Updated on October 6, 2023 by Aaron
To pair wines with cheddar, we will need to know the types of cheddar and the flavor profiles. Cheddar comes in three main varieties: mild, medium, and sharp.
Mild cheddars have a smooth, creamy texture with subtle hints of butter and salt, while medium cheddars have a more pronounced deep flavor and are also richer. Sharp aged cheddars such as the clothbound style are tangier in flavor, nuttier and very strong in taste, which is a lot harder to pair with wines.
Cheddar has a star-like character
When pairing cheddar with wine, the most important factor to consider is the intensity of the cheddar’s flavor. Cheddar is meant to be strong and star-like, so it’s best to pair cheddars with wines that are not overly sweet or tannic. If you choose a wine with too much acidity or sweetness, the cheese can be overpowered and taste unpleasant.
For mild cheddar, light-bodied white wines such as Riesling, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc pair well with the subtle flavors of this mild cheese. Some mild cheddar can be quite grassy, thus It’s also delicious with sparkling wines like Prosecco or a light-bodied fruity red. The idea is to pick a wine that won’t overpower the delicate flavors of mild cheddar.
Medium cheddar pairs well with full-bodied whites such as Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio or fruity reds like Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. These wines are bold enough to stand up to the more pronounced flavors of medium cheddar. Medium cheddar will leave you with its nutty notes and add complexity to the flavor profile.
Likewise, sharp cheddars are also best paired with bold red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah. The 2-3 years wines have enough body and tannins to stand up to the sharpness of this flavorful cheese, without overpowering it. You’re likely to find deeper notes of caramel, nuts and smoke that come through in sharp cheddar in a smaller bite. That’s the same reason people commonly pair these heavier red wines with parmesan as well to counterbalance the intensity of the cheese.
What about Irish Cheddar?
Irish cheddar is typically less sharp and intense in flavor than English cheddar. Somewhat in between sharp cheddar and parmesan. The mildness, earthier and richer flavor of the Irish variety allows for some interesting pairings with French-style wines such as Chablis, Sancerre, and Beaujolais. These light-to-medium-bodied dry whites are delicate enough to allow the flavors of the cheese to shine through while still offering a bit of complexity.
If you would like a mellower combination, try to go for warm fruity reds such as Valpolicella, Chianti and Barbera. If you are not sure, the go-to option is to go with Irish whiskey, or light red wines such as Pinot Noir, or an oaked chardonnay.
Do you have special pairings for cheddar? Let people know in the comment section below: