Wine Pairings with Cheese and Meat

This heatmap shows the most recommended cheese and meat pairing for each type of wine. This recommendations were found in 14 sites of meats, cheese, and wine. The graph on top includes cheeses. The graph at the bottom includes meats. Darker colors mean more sites approving that pairing. Hover over the heatmap to see the number of approvals for each pairing.

Legend and Resources

This is a heatmap of the most recommended meat and cheese pairings with wine. The suggestions were obtained from 14 different online websites. Dishes were not included, only cheeses and meats. The wines are classified as follows:


Dry White Wine Sweet White Wine Rich White Wine Sparkling Wine Rose Wine Light Red Wine Medium Red Wine Bold Red Wine Dessert Wine
Dry White WinesSweet White WinesRich White WinesSparkling WinesRose WinesLight Red WinesMedium Red WinesBold Red WinesDessert Wines
Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio Moscato, Riesling Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Viognier Champagne, Prosecco, Cava Dry Rose Pinot Noir Merlot, Zinfandel, Cabernet Shiraz or Syrah, Malbec Sherry, Port

Cheeses are classified as suggested by Fundamentals of Cheese Science by Patrick F. Fox et. al. For more information on Cheese classification go to Visual Classification of Cheese. Meats are classified by flavor not by phylogenetic relations between animal species.

Dishes or prepared food pairing sites were avoided. Also sites that give you hints or guides to pair wines and foods according to taste. I focused on those that gave specific names. Most common or referenced wines, cheeses, and meats are included. There are many different kinds of wines that go with cheese and meats but were not mentioned in these lists. This list is definitely biased towards wines common in English speaking countries. The list of sites is as follows:

Information

Choosing what wine goes with your food is easier once you know what kind of wines are out there, and how they came to be. Yes, the color is a good guide, but here is much more than color when it comes to choosing a wine. The following description is a starters guide to wine varieties. Most of the information comes from: Usual Wines and Primer

To start let's talk about red wine. To make red wine, winemakers ferment the grapes with the skins left on. These are rich in flavor, color, and compounds called tannins. Tannins are a naturally occurring substance in grapes and other fruits and plants (like tea). The taste of tannin is often described as bitter, causing a dry and puckery feeling in your mouth. Tannins end up in your wine when the vintner allows the skins to sit in the grape juice as it ferments. Tannins add the red color, body and texture to wine. Red wine is fermented in large open vessels. Here the grapes are pushed and squeezed to extract more flavors. The wine is left in contact with the skins for as long as possible, which could be from five days up to two weeks. Typically, red wines are then aged in oak barrels to soften the sharp, zingy flavors of the grapes.

There’s no law against drinking chilled red wine, but there’s a pretty good reason why you shouldn’t, it’s the tannins. Tannins tend to taste bitter as they get cold, which means your darker red wines won’t taste their best when they are as cold.

Wines that have little or no skin contact end up pink. This is how you end up with Rosé wines. On the spectrum between red and white, rosé is much closer to the light side, with relatively low tannin. However, what gives rosé it’s famous pink hue is the short amount of time rosé wines are left in contact with the grape skin. This is anywhere from two to 24 hours. Rosé is made in the same way that white wine is made, fermented in large stainless steel vats. White and rosé wines, with their low tannin content, taste just fine when chilled, but avoid getting them too cold, or you’ll miss out on a lot of the flavor.

As you might expect, the process to make white wine requires that the skins and seeds are removed, then the grapes are pressed into a clear juice. This juice is then fermented. White wine has just a bit of tannins. Unlike red wines, white wines flavor is characterized by acidity. That’s why you might say a wine is “crisp” or “tart.” Or, if there isn’t enough acidity, you might call a white wine “flabby” or “flat.” As mentioned with Rosé wines, white wine is matured in stainless steel vats, keeping the floral and citrus fruit notes intact.

Sparkling wine is wine that has significant carbonation. This can occur as a natural part of the fermentation process or via carbon dioxide injection after fermentation. When reading sparkling wine labels, you’ll also encounter terms that indicate its sweetness/dryness

Dessert wine gets its name because it tends to be sweeter and comes after a meal. Alcohol (usually brandy) is added to a dessert wine so that it can retain more of its natural sugars, which are typically used up during the fermentation process.

In the USA, red, white and rosé wines have an alcohol by volume content of 14%. Most wine serving establishments in America will have these wine types shown in the graph, but there are many great varietals beyond those listed above.

Inspiration

I never gave much thought to drinking wine. I always thought it was for fancy dining. I knew red wine goes with red meat. White wine goes with white meats. Then I learned that the rules not always apply, but that was beyond my income, so I did not care. Then I spent a summer in Paris. Wine was cheap and everywhere. Cheese was not plain and came in all delicious stinky varieties. I have to confess I did not learn their names, but learned to appreciate the flavors that wine brings to food.

The quarantine started and I could only think of things I could no longer do. One of the things I really missed was dining out. I wanted to have a fancy meal at a nice restaurant every night. I then focused my desires and tribulations to fixing food at home. I started thinking about foods and meals I craved. Then I made the visualization about the Visual Classification of Cheese. I realized that it was not complete without mentioning cheese and wine pairings.

I started looking for information and made quite a fun diagram about it. But the more I got into it and looked at it, I realized it did not make much sense. I realized that descriptive pairings made little sense. Acid, sweet, soft, strong, fruity.... I could not tell which was which. Then Pinot Noir seemed to go with everything. Something was wrong. I then decided to look at other sites. Maybe there was better pairings out there. I realized, that they all give different information. I understand it can be a science but also it is also very subjective to who's tasting. I decided the best way to graph pairings was to tally the number recommended pairings. This way I could get the most recommended pairing for each cheese and wine.

I expected a more comprehensive list. I expected every wine producer, fine dining restaurant, and Napa valley vineyard to have a wine, meat, cheese pairing suggestion. If you see a worthy list send it to me. I will be pleased to add it to this graph. It will make it even more complete!

Made by Luz K. Molina with D3.js.

Cheese wine pairings