Why Wine and Cheese Pair So Well

Why wine will always taste better with a decent cheese platter

Picture / Babiche Martens

Wondering how to serve a less-than-impressive bottle of wine to party guests? The answer could lie in Caerphilly.

A study has found that cheese really does make wine taste better, by boosting its fruitiness and bouquet and improving feelings of enjoyment for drinkers.

The finding helps explain why wine and cheese, which have been served together for thousands of years, complement each other so well.

Researchers at the Centre for Taste and Feeding Behaviour in Dijon, France, asked 31 wine experts to sample a number of different wines and cheeses and rate their enjoyment. Almost all the wines tasted better after cheese.

The wines selected were a sweet pacherenc, a dry sancerre, a full-bodied bourgogne and a fruitier madiran. They were paired with a soft and hard cow cheese - epoisses and comte - as well as blue roquefort and the hard goat’s cheese crottin de chavignol.

The four different cheeses were sampled over different sessions with each wine. After tasting a piece of cheese and taking three sips of wine, the participants were given a list of sensations to describe their feelings.

TRY: How to Make the Perfect Cheese Board

They were then given a different piece of cheese to nibble, told to take three more sips and again asked to evaluate the wine, repeating the process with each of the cheeses and each of the wines.

“Thanks to our research we learned the duration of the perception of astringency of a certain wine could be reduced after having cheese and the four evaluated cheeses had the same effect,” said lead researcher Mara Galmarini. “In short, when having a plate of assorted cheeses, the wine will probably taste better no matter which one they choose.”

The results, published in the journal Food Science, showed cheese changed all the wines, and made most more enjoyable. None of the four cheeses had a negative impact on any of the wines.

In both red wines, the bourgogne and madiran, the four cheeses increased the aroma of red fruits in the bouquet.

They also reduced the duration of astringency - the feeling in the mouth caused by tannins. In the sweet white, pacherenc, the aroma was improved.

Previous research in the US suggested pairing cheese and wine works because the tannins in wine cause a rough, drying sensation leaving the tongue and gums feeling parched, but the fat in cheese has the opposite effect; lubricating the mouth again and making wine more enjoyable.

The study used a new sensory evaluation method developed by the researchers to show how perception and liking of wine change after cheese intake over several sips, which is closer to typical consumption.

However, a separate study warned guests to proceed with caution when serving cheese because it is one of the most hated food groups.

French researchers at the Lyon Neuroscience Research Centre asked 332 people which food they felt the most aversion to and 6 per cent picked cheese - more than double the number who chose fish or cured meats.

Fifteen of the people who loathed cheese then had their brain scanned while sniffing different food stuffs and their brains were compared to people with no aversion.

Researchers found that the cheese triggered a response in areas of the brain associated with disgust.

— The Daily Telegraph

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