Wine and cheese have complex flavors. Certain types are light, while others are robust; however, pairing wine with cheese is not always a matter of light with light, or robust with robust. There are times when opposites create a good pairing. A compatible cheese and wine often appear together as ingredients in a single dish, or else the wine is sipped alongside a dish that features a paired cheese. Hors d’oeuvres that star certain types of cheese will be served with a wine that complements them. Personal taste and preferences take precedent over strict pairing rules, but there are a few classic pairings that are typically observed.

White Wines

Chardonnay offers a mellow flavor that matches well with creamy cheeses such as provolone or Brie. Try Chardonnay with the lesser-chosen Havarti as well. Sauvignon Blanc works well with the same cheeses as Chardonnay, but is also very compatible with dishes that feature certain hard Italian cheeses such as Parmesan, Romano or asiago. A Riesling wine goes well with light, mellow Edam and Gouda. Goat cheese is matched well with Pinot Grigio, especially when served as an hors d’oeuvre atop crackers.

Red Wines

Light red wines complement Jarlsberg, blue cheese or smoky Goudas. Pinot Noirs pair well with several other types of cheese, including cheddar and Limburger. Try creamy Camembert on crackers with a Cabernet. Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Beaujolais match well with Emmental. Try these two wines with a nutty Emmental fondue. Beaujolais also enhances the flavors of feta cheese and muenster. For Italian dishes that feature mozzarella cheese, choose a Chianti, or, if there are substantial flavors of Romano or Parmesan, choose a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Sparkling Wines

Bubbly wines are for festive occasions, and are often brought out for holidays, weddings and birthdays. These special wines are not generally paired with meal-time foods. Sparkling wines accompany hors d’oeuvres, many of which include various kinds of cheese. Delicate, nutty baby Swiss cheese is a natural with an Asti Spumante. Choose a delicacy such as truffle cheese and pair it with any sparkling wine. Create a special brunch by preparing a quiche made with Gruyere cheese and serving with Champagne. Champagne also goes well with Brie, Edam and Gouda.

Dessert Wines

Dessert wines include port, tawny port, Marsala, Madeira and sherry. Served in small aperitif glasses, a little bit of these intensely flavored wines goes a long way. Sweeter dessert wines are often served with bold, pungent cheeses. Port is a good accompaniment to the English cheese Stilton. Pair tawny port with Roquefort cheese. Mascarpone, a velvety smooth, ultra-soft cheese, is often paired with Marsala in the same dish. A Marsala mascarpone cheesecake is a good example.