The rich, over-the-top sweetness and dark earthiness of ripe figs and the sharp, clean creaminess of goat cheese are a natural pairing. But which wines are best to complement such distinctive flavors? The answer depends on how and when the fruit and cheese is being served.

As an Appetizer

Halved fresh figs brushed with balsamic vinegar and then topped with a crumble of goat cheese before roasting in the oven until warm through make a beautiful, simple and elegant start to a meal. Pair this preparation with a Gew├╝rztraminer to highlight the fruit or a Pinot Gris to bring the sharpness of the goat cheese into prominence.

As a Canapé

A smear of goat cheese and a layer of crushed fresh figs topped with crisped prosciutto and a few leaves of lightly dressed arugula on a base of toasted nut bread is a simple offering that’s got enough complexity of flavor for even the most elegant cocktail party. A dark, bold Pinot Noir will stand up to this savory bite.

As a Salad

Baby greens topped with sliced figs, crumbles of goat cheese, crispy crumbled prosciutto and sliced pears needs only a very simple vinaigrette to shine. If serving larger portions as a light lunch, try a sparkling wine such as a California champagne or a dry prosecco to make the meal even more special. For a salad course, break tradition and try a tawny port to offset the sharpness of the vinaigrette.

As Dessert

Quartered ripe figs topped with crumbled goat cheese and drizzled with peppered honey is a sophisticated climax to any meal. As simple in presentation as it is layered in flavors, this is definitely a dessert for grownups. A Sauvignon Blanc will cut through the sweetness and keep the honey and figs from overpowering the cheese and spice.