Riesling is known as somewhat of an all-rounder when it comes to food pairing. This semi-sweet German favourite ticks all the boxes for food pairings: naturally sweet, palate-cleansing and light bodied. But does riesling’s versatility make it a good match with cheese?
Principles of pairing riesling with cheese
Well, the answer is actually quite simple: yes. Riesling cheese pairings, when they follow basic sommelier principles, should be guided by a few key points, depending on what kind of riesling you have to hand:
- Medium with medium: as a general rule, you can match wine and cheeses based on their relative strength (this is why oaky whites like Chardonnay go well with hard cheeses such as aged cheddar). With riesling not being overly heavy, you should avoid hard, salty cheeses that might overpower the wine.
- Sweet wines with funky cheeses: the very sweetest wines, such as port, cava or sauternes, make for great bedfellows with blue cheeses like roquefort and gorgonzola. Riesling is not quite as sweet as those wines, but this rule is one to consider if you have a particularly sweet riesling to hand.
- High acidity with melted cheese: when cheese is melted, the flavor molecules concentrate and umami comes to the fore. As such, wines high in acidity, such as riesling, are great pairings for melted cheese, because they act as a natural palate cleanser.
- Location, location, location: riesling is a classic German wine, so all the better if you can find a German cheese to match (as long as it follows the rest of the rules above!).
The Best Riesling Cheese Pairings
We put a few of these different riesling cheese pairings to the test, and we found that the rules were more or less correct. Rieslings with higher alcohol content – 12.5% ABV – were better suited to bolder cheeses like Emmental, whereas lighter rieslings, around the 10% mark, went well with light cheeses such as Gouda.
Furthermore, ‘dry’ riesling, or Grosses Gewächs, did not mesh particularly well with typical dessert cheeses such as Comté. Very sweet riesling, on the other hand, went down a treat with funkier cheeses like Roquefort.
With that in mind, we noted down our results and are happy to present the best riesling cheese pairings, as chosen by The Wine Wiki editorial team.
Let us go on record here and say that raclette is the best Riesling cheese pairing. It’s a semi-hard cheese used in the dish of the same name, which involves melted Swiss cheese served with a side of potatoes, and perhaps a pickle or two.
When paired with riesling it can produce some delightful combinations: each sip of the wine cleans the palate of the melted, nutty flavour of raclette, and each forkful of cheese imparts a sweetness that mingles perfectly with the sweet tones of the Riesling. A match made in heaven.
Emmental is another semi-hard Swiss cheese. It’s one of those all-rounders – not too strong and no overpowering flavors, but with enough fat and tempered saltiness to act as the perfect cheese course for a meal.
A medium strength white like riesling is an obvious choice for Emmental, which makes this pairing a great crowd-pleaser. This pairing definitely pleased us!
Gouda originates from the Dutch town of Gouda, but has also been made in Germany for hundreds of years. If it grows with it, it goes with it, and Gouda + riesling is no exception.
We suggest being on the lookout for a drier riesling if you want to pair with Gouda. A dry Riesling can stand up to stronger, saltier cheeses such as Gouda, which might prove overpowering for typically sweet varieties.
The very best dry rieslings are known as Grosses Gewächs. They are well-aged and consistently rank amongst the most sophisticated of Rieslings. Riesling Grosses Gewächs is particularly suited to mature gouda that has been aged for 16 weeks or more.
Feta is a versatile Greek cheese made from a blend of sheep’s and goat’s milk. It is salty, tangy and crumbly – hence why its most common application is in enhancing the flavor of certain salads.
Feta isn’t a typical aperitif or dessert cheese, but those looking for something more experimental would benefit from pairing feta with riesling. Both products are heavy on sweetness and acidity, which makes for fantastic chemical combinations on the palate. Plus, that characteristically salty aftertaste from feta works well here, because the soft texture of the cheese mitigates the effect, allowing the wine not to be overpowered.
Roquefort is a blue cheese made from sheep’s milk that hails from the French department of Aveyron, near Toulouse.
Not everybody is partial to the pungent aroma of blue cheese, but lovers of sweeter rieslings will find that this pairing does marvelous things to the taste buds. You’ll notice that the sweetness of the Riesling offsets the bitter sub-flavors of Roquefort, while also being a natural companion to its zesty, crumbly texture.