What’s more indulgent than a glass of wine and rich cheese? Sure, they’re each delicious on their own, and they’re even better together. Yet it’s not just that. Wine and cheese pairings go beyond that simple of an answer. What is it exactly that makes the two work so well together?
Astringency & Wine Tannins
Think of it this way. A hamburger tastes really good with a pickle. You have one food that’s fatty and has oils that linger on your tongue. The other food, the pickle, can be acidic and just a little sour. These mouthfeels are complementary. They link together well and they give us a really good feeling that goes beyond just taste alone.
This is the same reason that oil goes well with vinegar, and that cheese goes well with wine. The key here is astringent compounds, such as wine tannins. These bind to proteins that act as lubricants, returning a more natural mouthfeel as we drink.
A Sensation That Builds
Every time you take a bite of cheese, your mouth is coated in lubricant proteins. Every time you take a sip of wine, those wine tannins bond to those proteins and remove them. You’re not just delivering different tastes to your mouth, you’re asking your tongue to react in different ways with each bite and sip.
Now, astringents don’t just feel the same way every time. Their effect builds so that each sip of wine you have, the effect is perceived as stronger. This is why the first sip of wine in a meal may hint at this effect, but the fifth or sixth sip has your mouth reacting to it in full.
Wine and cheese pairings go well because they take advantage of this effect in flavor and mouthfeel…and also in portions. Our habit is to alternate: one bite, one sip, one bite, one sip, over and over again. This repeats that astringency effect over and over so that we feel it more strongly every time. It’s a very satisfying feeling that makes us feel involved in our wine and cheese choices in a way that really does go beyond taste.
Ready for a little snack?