Chardonnay and cheese are two of the most popular and versatile pairing options. Whether you’re hosting a cheese tasting or just want to enjoy cheese with Chardonnay, the combination is a classic one that will surely please your taste buds. 

However, with so many kinds of Chardonnay and cheese out there, it can be hard to know which pairings will genuinely highlight the flavors of each. In this blog post, we’ll explore the best cheese and Chardonnay pairings, along with some tips on how to create your own.

Cheese wheel on a board with a glass of wine beside

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Understanding Chardonnay flavor profiles

The queen of white wine grapes, Chardonnay produces a stunning variety of wine styles. Chardonnay’s flavor profiles range from full-bodied, creamy wines with distinctive tropical fruit tones to lighter wines with salty, herbal notes. The most common type of Chardonnay is the so-called “California style,”,which has distinct citrus notes and a full body,  earning consumers’ recognition both in the US and internationally.

What determines the Chardonnay profile?

The vast range of flavors comes from the various Chardonnay grapes used, particulate climates, and differing winemaking techniques. Chardonnay takes on notes of buttery-toast and vanilla when aged in oak barrels. Chardonnays aged in stainless steel tanks tend to be crisp and light-bodied with fruit-forward notes.

Fermentation techniques influence the character of the Chardonnay, with wines that undergo malolactic fermentation  being more buttery and complex. Wines made without malolactic fermentation tend to have a more crisp, acidic flavor profile. The temperature at which the wine ferments also affects its character, with cooler fermentation contributing to good acidity and warmer temperatures producing softer, rounder wines. 

Chardonnay flavor profile is highly dependent on the grape growing region,with cool climates producing dry wines with citrus and green fruit notes, and warm regions producing a more diverse variety of aromas and flavors – anything from white peaches and melons to tropical fruits and figs.. 

A range of styles to choose from

When it comes to food and wine pairings, Chardonnay is known for its remarkable versatility, making it one of the most flexible wines available on the market. Some Chardonnays are best served chilled and savored on their own as an aperitif, while others are excellent when paired with a variety of foods. From delicate seafood dishes to creamy pasta sauces and everything in between, Chardonnay can elevate the flavors of a wide range of cuisines.

If you’re looking for a dry white wine with lots of flavors, look for wines with oak aging and buttery notes. For a more fruity style, opt for an unoaked Chardonnay or one that has only been lightly oaked. With such a wide range of Chardonnay styles, there is sure to be one that suits your palate.

However, it is essential to keep in mind that Chardonnay’s flavor profile is constantly evolving. In other words, no single style represents all Chardonnays — and your favorite may change over time.

Cheese board with glasses of wine behind

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Why do cheese and wine pair perfectly?

There are several factors that make wine and cheese an amazing pairing.  It is believed that the tradition of serving wine and cheese together dates back to ancient Greek and Roman cultures, where they were often enjoyed together at social events.

One reason wine and cheese is such an iconic pairing is due to their shared similarities.   Both wine and cheese typically have a high acidity level and the acidity in the wine can cut through the fat in the cheese, making it more palatable and enjoyable for your taste buds.

In many ways, pairing wine and cheese is similar to pairing red wines with meats or white wines with fish — both pairings rely on the same principles of balancing flavors and textures. Similarly, pairing wine with pasta dishes can also enhance the dining experience, with full-bodied reds complementing rich tomato sauces and crisp whites balancing creamy Alfredo dishes.

For a classic wine and seafood pairing, a light-bodied Chardonnay can beautifully complement the delicate flavors of shrimp scampi, with its citrusy notes and crisp acidity cutting through the buttery richness of the dish

Lastly, and arguably most important,, wine and cheese are both made from natural ingredients grown on farms. This similarity in origin and sourcing explains Chardonnay’s inherent cheese-friendly characteristics.

Cheese and wine pairing basics

Before diving deep into Chardonnay cheese pairings, let’s start with the basics of pairing cheese and wine. 

Match the weight and flavor intensity

First, it is essential to match the texture of cheese and wine. That is, heavy cheeses typically call for a dense wine. 

If you’re looking to pair cheese and wine, think about the flavors in each one. What kind of cheeses do you like? How strong, mild, sweet, salty, acidic, or earthy are they? Once you know what flavors you want in cheese, try pairing them with wines with similar characteristics. 

Fresh goat cheese pairs well with Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc aged in oak barrels. The same goes for pairing a nutty, full-bodied Riesling with creamy blue cheese. Again, the key to successful cheese and wine pairings is to match flavors’ intensity and texture.

Next, look out for flavors that complement each other instead of clashing. Common complementary flavor pairs include: 

  • Sweet wines plus spicy dishes
  • Sweet wines plus salty dishes
  • Bitter wines plus fatty dishes

For example, triple crème cheese is significantly heavier than aged cheddar — and will require something acidic like crisp Chardonnay to cut through the creamy texture. A fruit-forward profile of oaked Chardonnay will balance out the saltiness in blue cheese.

Cheese board with two glasses of wine behind

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Avoid pairing heavily oaked wines with creamy cheeses

Second, oaked wines make good pairings with semi-hard cheeses. However, creamy and buttery cheeses are not the best match.

Instead, try pairing heavily oaked wines with cheddar or Gruyere. The oak flavors will complement the nutty notes in these cheeses and add a layer of complexity to the overall taste experience.

Match the acidity levels

Third, pair a wine with cheese that has the same acidity. For example, if you have a rich Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, pair it with similarly acidic foods such as a Parmesan or Romano cheese. 

Be careful with soft-ripened cheeses

Fourth, it is important to be cautious with soft-ripened cheeses. Sometimes, the rind can overpower the taste of the wine and result in a negative perception of the wine When pairing a soft-ripened cheese with wine, ensure that the wine’s flavor profile and the cheese’s rind complement one another. For example, soft-ripened cheeses like Brie or Camembert will go well with white or sparkling wines.

Leave room for experiments

Fifth, when pairing wine and cheese together, opt for trying something new instead of sticking with what’s familiar. Experimenting with wine and cheese pairings will help you expand your horizons as a wine connoisseur as well as saving money from not having to purchase entirely new bottles of alcohol every time.

Consider the optimal serving temperature

Finally, remember the recommended serving temperatures for wine and cheese. Serve cheese at room temperature (about 68˚F) and wine — at 50˚F – 55˚F.

Tips for pairing Chardonnay with cheese

Creating the perfect cheese and Chardonnay pairing is all about finding the right balance between solid and subtle flavors. Chardonnay can range from light and crisp to bold and oaky, so it’s important to choose a wine that makes a perfect complement to your chosen cheese. When done right, pairing Chardonnay with cheese can significantly elevate your dining experience. 

Here are some proven tips on creating the winning cheese and Chardonnay pairs:

Play on textural similarities

Ensure to select styles with complimentary characteristics to get the most out of your cheese and Chardonnay pairing. For example, oak-aged Chardonnay pairs well with nutty cheeses like Gruyère, as the cheese’s creamy texture will complement the buttery notes of the wine, while the cheese’s flavors will add depth to the entire pairing.

Try matching dry varieties of Chardonnay with hard cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano for a more tart Chardonnay food pairing. The citrusy notes of the wine will complement the cheese’s flavors, while adding brightness to the pairing.

Ensure the balance of sweetness and acidity

Understanding the relationship between sweet and acidic flavors in cheese and Chardonnay is key to finding the perfect balance. Excess astringency in food can make the wine taste sour, but the wine’s acidity, in turn, can add an extra layer of flavor, while the sweetness can help soften any harshness. It’s all about the balance.

Tasting the cheese and wine together is the best way to find the right balance. Adjust your selection if the cheese and Chardonnay pairing is too acidic or too sweet. 

For example, citrusy Chardonnay will complement creamy cheese like brie or blue cheese. The sweetness and acidity of the wine will balance the tartness of the cheese.

You can also go for high-acid cheeses like cheddar, adding an extra flavor boost to the Chardonnay. Whatever you choose, focus on the perfect balance between sweet and acidic flavors.

Olives, cheese wedge and crackers with a glass of red wine

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Try adding other ingredients 

Consider adding more ingredients to your cheese plate to elevate your Chardonnay cheese pairing experience. Add chives and walnuts with your brie or fresh basil and pine nuts with your blue cheese. You could also add some figs or grapes to complement the wine. 

Don’t forget to season your cheese plate. You can add pepper, salt, and even a little sugar if needed to balance out the flavors of your creations. Small additions can contribute to more complex flavors that impress you. 

5 Popular Food Pairings of Chardonnay and Cheese

Chardonnay is a versatile white wine that pairs wonderfully with different cheeses. From sweet to crisp and refreshing, the right type of Chardonnay can bring out the best flavors in any cheese. 

What are some best cheeses to pair with Chardonnay? To help you get the most out of your glass of Chardonnay, we have compiled a list of cheese pairings worth trying.

#1 Oaked Chardonnay plus mild cheese

If you’re looking for a classic cheese and Chardonnay pairing, try a dry buttery Chardonnay with a mild cheese like Brie or Camembert. The oaky flavor of the wine will ground the creaminess of cheese and wine, while the acidity in your glass will cut through any fatty flavors. 

This Chardonnay cheese pairing is great to enjoy with fresh fruit. You can also try it with a baguette for added crunch.

#2 Oaked Chardonnay plus nutty cheese

Full-bodied Chardonnay pairs well with nutty cheeses. For example, aged Gouda or Gruyere cheeses have a nutty, almost smoky profile that can amplify the notes of your Chardonnay. The wine will soften and balance those flavors while still allowing them to shine through. 

#3 Oaked Chardonnay plus blue cheese

Try pairing Chardonnay with mild blue cheese like Gorgonzola or strong blue cheese like Roquefort for something more out of the ordinary. While the boldness of blue cheese can often be too overpowering for lighter wines, an oaked Chardonnay will stand up to its intensity and enhance its flavors. The oak in Chardonnay lends itself well to cheese, making this food pairing perfect for your next wine and cheese party.

#4 Unoaked Chardonnay plus mild cheddar cheese

For a classic combination, pair a light and crisp Chardonnay with soft cheddar cheese. The sweetness of the Chardonnay will balance out the sharpness of the cheddar while allowing all the subtleties of flavor to come through. 

This Chardonnay cheese pairing is good on its own, and it’s also delicious with fresh fruit. For example, try an unoaked Chardonnay with mild cheddar cheese and sliced apples or pears. The wine’s sweetness will complement the fruit’s tang, enhancing the taste sensations from the entire gastronomic combination.

#5 Unoaked Chardonnay plus sharp cheddar cheese

Want something more complex than the mild cheddar and Chardonnay pairing offers? Try pairing an unoaked Chardonnay with sharp cheddar. In this Chardonnay pairing, the wine will soften the sharpness of the cheese while still displaying its fruity notes. 

This Chardonnay food pairing is perfect for meat and cheese boards or as an appetizer before dinner. You can enjoy it with your favorite crackers, crisp bread, or fruit.

Man holding a glass of wine and selecting items from a cheese board

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Wrapping up

Finding the best cheese to pair with Chardonnay can be challenging — but worth it! Through careful tasting and experimentation, you can find winning combinations that bring out the best in cheese and wine. We hope our tips and suggestions will help you find the ideal Chardonnay and cheese pairing for any occasion.