“I don’t want to stick to the rules,” Sophia Cutts-Ieraci says. “If you do, you kind of confine yourself.”
That’s Cutts-Ieraci’s first tip when it comes to matching wine with cheese. She should know. As assistant venue manager at Nick and Nora’s, Cutts-Ieraci is constantly helping punters navigate the moody Melbourne CBD bar’s impressive wine and cheese selections.
“There are classic pairings that go well together,” she says, “but I think being able to think outside of the box is really important.”
It’s one thing, though, to grab a cheese-and-wine pairing recommendation at your favourite bar, but quite another to understand the basics of doing it yourself at home. So we asked Cutts-Ieraci to lend Broadsheet her expertise. In partnership with Yarra Valley winery Levantine Hill Estate, she walks us through some of her favourite cheese flavour profiles and their wine pairings.
Hard, mild, fruity
“One of my absolute favourite cheeses is a raspberry Bellavitano,” Cutts-Ieraci says. “It’s an American cheese. It’s hard and it has a raspberry wash rind. It’s like a really sweet but tangy American cheddar with that beautiful raspberry and fruit flavour through it.”
With a gorgeous, raspberry-coloured exterior, a subtle nuttiness and the sweet-and-tart raspberry flavour gently woven through (particularly on the rind), Cutts-Ieraci recommends matching a raspberry Bellavitano with sparkling rosé.
“With sparkling rosé you get those beautiful berry notes, those beautiful richer fruit flavours,” Cutts-Ieraci says, “but you still get a little bit of tannin, a bit of body to it that can stand up to a harder cheese.”
Tangy, rich, chalky
“If you’re looking for something softer, something a little bit tangier and richer, you’re looking at a goat’s cheese,” Cutts-Ieraci says.
Here, think something powerful, tangy and creamy such as the Holy Goat La Luna goat’s cheese from Castlemaine, combined with a wine of slightly higher tannin and richness, such as a rosé.
“That chalky, earthy flavour of the goat’s cheese goes well with something that’s a little bit more tannic and a little bit more serious, and has a little bit more of a backbone,” Cutts-Ieraci says. “If you’re doing a lighter style, you can lose the wine a bit, and the whole point of pairing is trying to make sure the wine is going to have enough body to stand up with the food without overwhelming it.”
Hard, nutty, salty
A favourite at Nick and Nora’s is a semi-hard Swiss number called challerhocker (pronounced “holler hocker”).
“Absolutely amazing cheese,” Cutts-Ieraci says. “It’s cellar aged. It’s really quite white, quite pale in colour, but it’s quite rich, quite nutty.”
Go for a richer style of white wine, ideally with a little malolactic fermentation to beef up the buttery richness of the wine and complement the cheese’s nutty characteristics. The Levantine Hill chardonnay is ideal.
“It’s the same as any aged cheese,” Cutts-Ieraci says. “You get that rich nuttiness in the cheese and I think the rich nuttiness with the heavy, buttery notes of the chardonnay work really well.”
Salty, blue, strong
Roquefort is rightly revered as a powerful, full-on hunk of blue cheese.
“Obviously roquefort is a big-boy blue, really rich and full-bodied,” Cutts-Ieraci says. “Classically you would go to dessert-style wines, so a botrytis style or a sauterne, but roquefort also goes really well with an aged sparkling.”
A powerful cheese needs a bigger style of wine, and the flavours that develop as sparkling wine ages in the cellar can hold their own against a big blue.
“You’re looking for something with a bit of body and a bit of sweetness,” Cutts-Ieraci says. “When you’re getting something that’s rested for quite some time and has a lot of bottle development, it’ll bring out a lot of … nuttiness, toastiness, a little bit of sweetness.”
Creamy, rich, soft
Brie is already known for its creaminess and richness but Délice de Bourgogne, a cheese from Burgundy in France, takes that up a couple of notches.
“That is a triple-cream white-mould cheese so it’s very rich, creamy and textural,” Cutts-Ieraci says. “What I’m looking for here is something that will contrast with the cheese more than anything, and sparkling is really good with pairing wine to contrast.”
Cutts-Ieraci suggests something along the lines of the Levantine Hill’s blanc de blancs. Whereas pinot noir-dominant sparkling tends to get pretty rich, the crisp chardonnay cuts through the incredible richness of the brie, bringing both into harmony.
“Blanc de blanc is classically a chardonnay-predominant wine and what that means is crispness, freshness. You can think, flavour profile-wise, green apples, orchard fruits.”
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Levantine Hill Estate. Explore the full range of Levantine Hills wines.