When serving cheese and crackers with wine, it is usually best to start with light, refreshing wines and mild cheeses and work your way through medium-bodied and full-bodied choices later in the evening. This prevents strong flavors from overwhelming your palate early in the evening. Cleanse the palate with something neutral after the full-bodied wines and end the evening with a sparkling or dessert wine.
Serve mild cheeses with light wines to start your evening. Young Gouda is not strong and can be paired with white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc or White Burgundy. Goat cheese also pairs well with the Sauvignon Blanc, as do mozzarella and bocconcini. For light wines and mild cheeses, choose plain breads and crackers, such as slices of French baguette or rich, buttery crackers to complement the crispness of the wines.
Serve Asiago cheese with medium-bodied white wines such as Riesling and Chardonnay. Asiago also works with lighter red wines such as Pinot Noir and Syrah. Chardonnay is a good partner for cheeses such as mild cheddar, Gruyere and provolone. Havarti and muenster are best served with wines such as Gewurztraminer or Riesling. Choose crackers and breads with a little complexity, such as whole grain versions or those with white sesame seeds.
Parmigiano-Reggiano and other cheeses like it, such as Grana Padano and Pecorino, have strong flavors that pair well with full-bodied red wines that won't be overwhelmed by them. Try Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon or Barolo. Pair aged Gouda, Jarlsberg and Edam with these wines as well. Match nearly any bread or cracker with these wines, including those with strong rye or caraway flavors.
The creaminess of brie matches well with the acidity of Champagne and other sparkling wines. Because brie is mild, it won't interfere with the flavors of even sweeter wines. Accompany the cheese with buttery crackers or soft baguette so the wine remains the star of the match-up.
Choose blue cheeses, such as Cambazola, Stilton, Roquefort or Gorgonzola, to bring out the sweetness of dessert wines such as ice wine and Sauternes. Sweeter Rieslings pair well with these cheeses as well. Plain unsalted crackers and breads match well with blue cheese and sweeter wines since there is no saltiness to interfere with the sweetness of the wines.
Karen Sheviak has more than 10 years of experience as a writer, researcher and copy editor for "Canadian Living" magazine. She has worked as a freelance editor for other magazines including "Toronto Life." Sheviak has a Bachelor of Arts in English and history from the University of Toronto and a diploma in journalism from Centennial College in Toronto.