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What is Wine Cheese—And Can You Pair it With Wine?

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It’s no secret that wine and cheese are a great match. The acidity, alcohol and structure of a wine can cut through cheese’s fat to uncork a greater depth of flavor. So, what happens when wine is an ingredient in cheese? A lot, as it turns out. 

When a wheel or wedge of cheese is brined, dipped, marinated, soaked or washed in wine, the rind and other exposed surfaces take on the wine’s color, flavors and aromas. Some cheesemakers also inject wine directly into the “paste,” or the cheese’s interior, to build flavor and create colorful veins throughout the interior. Either way, a well-made wine-infused cheese provides the best of the wine and cheese in one harmonious bite. 

Some say wine-infused cheeses came about during World War I, when European farmers hid their cheese in barrels filled with wine to protect them from enemy soldiers. It’s a great story but, alas, it’s folklore, says Sabina Belser of Musco Food Corp., an importer of cheese and specialty foods. 

“Cheese in Europe was a peasant food at first, a means of survival and fighting food spoilage,” says Belser. “Those same people often made their own wine, particularly in Italy or France.” 

There are practical benefits to cheesemaking and winemaking, too. They extend the shelf life of milk—be it cow, goat or sheep—and fruit, respectively. Making cheese and wine together tempers the growth of bacteria, too (thank you, alcohol). Whatever the motive, the marriage is a natural, delicious fit. 

Where to Buy Wine Cheese 

Ask your local cheesemonger or go to Wegmans, Whole Foods or other supermarkets. You can also try digital sources like Murray’s Cheese, St. James Cheese and Piccolo’s Gastronomia Italiana.  

How to Pair Wine Cheese with Wine 

You can enjoy even greater depths of flavor by pairing wine-infused cheese with a wine that complements it. Andrew McFetridge, the beverage director and head sommelier at Ruffian Wine Bar in New York City, says there are a few ways to approach this pairing. 

Generally, fatty foods pair well with tannic wines, and salty foods work with high-acid wines. The classic adage “What grows together goes together” also holds true for wine-infused cheese, he says. So, try pairing your cheese with wine from the same or a similar region. 

That said, there’s no harm in taking chances with nontraditional pairings. “You don’t know until you try,” says McFetridge.

Ready to put those tips into action? Here, McFetridge shares wine pairings for seven types of wine-infused cheese. 

7 Wine Cheeses to Try (And How to Pair Them)

Drunken Goat

Drunken Goat wine cheese
Courtesy Murray’s Cheese

Milk: Goat 
Cheese Type: Semisoft 
Country of Origin: Spain
Where to Buy: Murray’s Cheese

The longest-tenured wine-infused cheese in the U.S., Drunken Goat, also known as Cabra al Vino or “goat with wine,” is a semisoft, not particularly goaty cheese that was soaked in Doble Pasta wine and aged for 60 days. You’ll recognize this Spanish crowd-pleaser by its deep purple rind and might notice that the parts of the cheese closest to rind are the most wine-flavored. Drunken Goat is mild and slightly sweet.  

Wine Pairing: McFetridge suggests wine with light tannin and ample fruit, such as California Pinot Noir or a Beaujolais or Primitivo. Baller pairing, he says, would be the 2017 Guttarolo Primitivo from Puglia. 

Ubriaco Pinot Rosé

Ubriaco Pinot Rosé wine cheese
Photo by Francesco Sapienza

Milk: Cow
Cheese Type: Semihard
Country of Origin: Italy

In Italian, ubriaco means “drunk” and can be used as an adjective or noun. Formaggio ubriaco can be made anywhere but is most associated with Italy’s Veneto region. 

Ubriaco Pinot Rosé is the evolution of generations of cheesemaking for Sergio Moro, whose grandfather helped local dairies produce and preserve cheese with Raboso and Fragolino wines for personal consumption. This aromatic, semihard cheese is made from pasteurized cow’s milk, topped with wine-infused rose petals, and soaked in grape must and La Jara Pinot Grigio sparkling rosé and aged for 30 to 60 days. 

Wine Pairing: Sparkling red wine, says McFetridge, like Lambrusco or sparkling Shiraz. 

Moliterno al Vino

Moltinero al Vino wine cheese
A flock behind Moltinero al Vino / Photo by Central Formaggi

Milk: Sheep
Cheese Type: Hard
Country of Origin: Italy 

Named for a mountainous town in southern Italy with optimal cheese-aging conditions, Moliterno is made with the milk of free-range sheep in Sardinia, by one producer: Central Formaggi. In the 19th century, founding cheesemaker Agostino Villecco traveled some 77 miles from his hometown to Moliterno to get his cheese just right. Today, it’s still made using traditional methods, like pressing the curds in handmade reed baskets.

Moliterno al Vino is soaked in Raboso for about 20 days, injected with wine to create stunning, deep purple, interior veins, and then aged for one month or more. 

Wine Pairing: “The inside of this cheese reminds me of marble floors,” says McFetridge. “It needs a wine that is just as strong, bold, firm.” He recommends something from Cornas in the Northern Rhône or an Australian Shiraz from South Australia. 

Bluehorn Blue

Rogue Creamery Bluehorn Wheel wine cheese
Photo by Beryl Striewski

Milk: Cow
Cheese Type: Blue
Country of Origin: U.S.

In addition to its world champion cheese, Rogue River Blue, which is wrapped in Syrah grape leaves and soaked in pear liqueur, Rogue Creamery makes a cave-aged cow’s milk blue cheese. Bluehorn Blue is soaked in a red wine blend, and then aged for at least 90 days. It’s a super sensory experience with pungent aromas, mosaic design, an array of textures and strong yet not overwhelming flavors.

Wine Pairing: Blue cheeses are McFetridge’s favorites to pair with wine. With Bluehorn, he suggests a tawny Port, an off-dry sparkling wine from the Bugey-Cerdon region of France or “something really badass” like Papras Bio Wines’ Melanthia sparkling, a Black Muscat from Greece.

Purple Moon Cheddar

Purple Moon Cheddar wine cheese
Photo by Andre Niesing

Milk: Cow
Cheese Type: Semihard
Country of Origin: U.S.
Where to Buy: iGourmet

When the cheese specialist at its local grocery store wanted a wine-soaked cheddar, Fiscalini, a dairy established in 1914 in Modesto, California by Swiss immigrants, answered the call. Purple Moon Cheddar was born in 2002, and in 2021 it was the company’s bestselling cheese. Six-ounce pieces of Fiscalini’s Farmhouse Cheddar, made with milk from its cows, are dipped overnight in Petite Sirah from a local winemaker. The result is a deep purple rind surrounding subtly nutty, sweet cheese. 

Wine Pairing: McFetridge says California Zinfandel is a great match. “Kind of like a berries and cream type thing,” he says, and recommends Martha Stoumen’s bottling.

Project X

Project X wine cheese a culinary mashup
Courtesy Murray’s Cheese

Milk: Cow
Cheese Type: Semihard
Country of Origin: U.S.
Where To Buy: Murray’s Cheese

A partnership between Vermont’s Spring Brook Farm and New York’s Murray’s Cheese, Project X is reminiscent of France’s Clisson, or Tome d’Aquitaine, another collaboration between a cheesemaker and affineur. Project X is made from raw cow’s milk cheese, bathed repeatedly in Gewürztraminer from New York State’s Finger Lakes and aged four months. It has hints of nuts and anise–the latter because wheels are coated in fennel pollen before their wine bath.

Wine Pairing: McFetridge suggests pairing by region, and notes that Ravines Wine Cellars makes an unctuous but decidedly dry Gewürztraminer. “A darling pairing,” he says. You might also try it with an Alsatian or Northeastern Italian Gewürztraminer.

Weinkase Lagrein

Weinkase Lagrein wine cheese
Courtesy Murray’s Cheese

Milk: Cow
Cheese Type: Semisoft
Country of Origin: Italy
Where To Buy: Murray’s Cheese

Weinkase means “wine cheese” in German, and the fontina-like Weinkase Lagrein comes from northern Italy, near the Austrian border. The semisoft cheese is made with cow’s milk, and then soaked for five days in garlic- and herb-infused local Lagrein wine.

Wine Pairing: McFetridge says this cheese pairs best with a lively, fresh red wine with some fruit, like Gustavo Riffo’s Lomas de Llahuen, a País from Chile, or La Casa Vieja’s Mission bottling from Mexico.

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