Cheese and wine make for a classic pairing, but choosing the right cheeses to serve with wine and crackers can be tricky. The key is finding cheeses that complement both the wine and the cracker. The cheese should have the perfect texture – not too hard or crumbly. The flavor profile should also balance the wine and cracker. To help you create the ideal cheese board, here are the 17 best cheeses for serving with wine and crackers.
So, what are the best cheeses for wine and cracker pairings? Popular cheeses like brie, cheddar, gouda, and Camembert have versatile textures and flavors that pair well with both reds and whites. Soft cheeses like brie complement fruity wines. Aged cheddars match bold reds. Blue cheeses pair nicely with sweet dessert wines. Fresh mozzarella or chèvre work with crisp whites.
Brie originated in the French regions of Brie and Meaux where the local cows produced rich, creamy milk perfect for cheesemaking. It has a bloomy rind that results from the Penicillium candidum mold that ripens the cheese. Brie is one of the most versatile soft cheeses due to its rich, silky texture and subtle buttery flavor that mellows as it ages. Young Brie is mild and light-bodied making it an ideal pairing for crisp white wines like Sauvignon Blanc and sparkling wines.
Aged Brie has a more robust flavor that can stand up to medium-bodied Chardonnay or rosé wines. The soft texture also allows Brie to marry perfectly with plain crackers, fruit pastes, or toasted baguette slices. For special occasions, try baking Brie wrapped in puff pastry until just warmed through for irresistible melted cheese.
Hailing from Normandy, France, Camembert has a signature white, bloomy rind and creamy, smooth interior. It is made from raw, unpasteurized cow’s milk, which results in a rich, earthy flavor profile. Hints of funkiness from the rind microbiota add complexity that pairs wonderfully with light, fruity red wines such as Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Beaujolais.
The supple, pillowy texture of Camembert allows it to spread easily onto plain crackers or baguette slices. For added flavor, try topping the cheese with honey or fruit jam. Baked Camembert is a delight as well – the molten center is ideal for dipping breads or vegetables.
Originally from Denmark, Havarti has a supple, smooth texture from interior small eye holes. When aged, Havarti develops a more crumbly texture and concentrated flavor. Young Havarti has a mild, milky taste that pairs well with crisp white wines like Pinot Grigio or Albariño.
Aged Havarti has nutty, caramelized notes that complement oak-aged Chardonnay or Viognier. The pliable texture makes Havarti an ideal cheese for slicing for crackers. Varieties with dill, jalapeño, or other spices can add another layer of flavor. Try Havarti with assorted crackers and sliced fruits for a dynamic cheese board.
This Dutch cheese comes in young and aged varieties, as well as smoked flavors. Young gouda has a mild, creamy flavor that pairs nicely with lighter white wines like Pinot Grigio. Aged gouda has concentrated flavors of brown butter, caramel and nuts that can stand up to hearty reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Syrah.
The firm, sliceable texture of gouda is perfect for crackers. Add flair by choosing gouda with cumin seeds, cloves, or other spices. Pair flavorful gouda with full-bodied wines and hearty multi-grain crackers for robust flavor combinations.
Originating from the Valle d’Aosta region of Italy, Fontina has a semi-soft, elastic texture. It is noted for its earthy, nutty flavor with hints of mushrooms or herbs. The mellow, subtly fruity taste complements mid-weight red wines like Pinot Noir, Merlot and lighter Chianti.
The sliceable texture makes Fontina an ideal cheese for hearty crackers flavored with roasted garlic, rosemary or other robust flavors. For an authentic Italian treat, try Fontina melted over pizza or in polenta dishes.
Originally from England, cheddar cheese is now produced worldwide. It ranges from young and mild to aged and sharp. The aging process concentrates the flavor and texture, creating crumbly, crystalline cheddar with robust nutty, tangy notes. Young cheddar has a smooth, firm texture and mild flavor that pairs nicely with light-bodied white wines like Sauvignon Blanc or delicate reds like Pinot Noir.
Sharper aged cheddars complement fuller oak-aged Chardonnay or bold Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. The firm texture makes cheddar perfect for slicing and serving with hearty whole grain crackers. For added interest, look for cheddar studded with crystals or flavored with onions, peppers or horseradish.
Parmigiano-Reggiano hails from Parma, Italy and is often called the “King of Cheeses.” It is made from raw cow’s milk and aged 1-2 years to develop concentrated umami flavors and granular, crystalline texture. Young Parmigiano-Reggiano has a mild, nutty taste that pairs well with medium-bodied white wines like Soave Classico or lighter Chardonnay.
The more complex, salty sharpness of aged Parmigiano-Reggiano can stand up to bold Cabernet Sauvignon, Barolo and Brunello. The hard texture is perfect for grating over pastas and salads or shaving into flakes for crackers. Look for a Parmesan with a Consorzio Matricola Stella seal to ensure authenticity.
Pecorino is a family of hard Italian cheeses made from sheep’s milk. Pecorino Romano is the most famous – a aged, salty cheese from Rome ideal for grating. Its sharp, robust flavor stands up well to bold Italian red wines like Chianti Classico, Barolo or Amarone.
For a less intense pairing, try young Pecorino Toscano with its mild nutty flavors alongside a bright Sangiovese or lively Chianti Classico. Because of its crumbly grating texture, Pecorino Romano is better served alongside breads rather than with crackers. Pair it with olive oil and olives for an authentic Italian cheese course.
This veined Italian blue cheese from Lombardy has a creamy texture with delicious funky notes. Young Gorgonzola is mild, crumbly and pairs well with light, fruity red wines like Pinot Noir, Gamay and Valpolicella. The bold earthy flavor of aged Gorgonzola makes it perfect for pairing with sweet Port or dessert wines that can handle its assertive presence.
Gorgonzola piccante is spicy and complex. Serve any Gorgonzola in small portions with plain or fruit-accented crackers to allow its unique veining flavors to shine. Add honey or pears for additional complexity.
Hailing from England, the two famous styles of Stilton are the crumbly, rich Blue Stilton and smooth, creamy White Stilton. Aged for 6-9 weeks, Blue Stilton has a complex medley of sweet fruit, spice and creamy nutty flavors thanks to its blue Penicillium roqueforti veining. It pairs wonderfully with sweet dessert wines like vintage Port, Sauternes or Tokaji Aszú.
The moist texture also allows it to work nicely with fig or date-infused crackers. White Stilton is a younger style with no veins, lending it a fresh tang that complements lighter wines.
One of the oldest known blue cheeses, Roquefort hails from the caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in France. It’s made from raw sheep’s milk and aged 3-5 months to develop tangy, earthy notes and characteristic green-blue veining.
The crumbly texture and bold flavor pairs nicely with sweet white wines that echo its minerality such as Sauternes, late harvest Riesling or Gewürztraminer.
Roquefort’s salty sharpness also contrasts beautifully with a drizzle of honey or fig jam. Serve with plain crackers, nut bread or crusty baguette.
Fresh mozzarella is made from the curd of buffalo or cow’s milk. It has a bright white color, soft moist texture and delicate milky flavor when fresh. The mild taste serves as a palate cleanser and pairs nicely with light, crisp white wines like Pinot Grigio, Vernaccia or Soave Classico. Fresh mozzarella highlights the fruit notes in wines without overwhelming them.
The soft texture also complements plain crackers or breadsticks. For added flavor, look for variations like mozzarella flavored with basil or roasted peppers.
Hailing from Italy, burrata contains an outer shell of mozzarella encasing a creamy, soft interior of stracciatella and cream. The contrasting textures pair wonderfully with sparkling wines like Prosecco or dry Rieslings that can stand up to the rich filling. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with plain crackers or toasted baguette slices to enjoy the fresh, milky flavors. For an appetizer platter, add prosciutto or other cured meats that complement the mild creamy burrata.
Chèvre refers to any soft fresh cheese made from goat’s milk. Unripened, it has a bright tangy, tart flavor and crumbly texture. The lemony notes pair well with bright Sauvignon Blanc, rosé Champagne or Chenin Blanc. Sturdy crackers flavored with rosemary, olives or nuts are ideal for scooping up creamy chèvre. Herbed versions blended with garlic, pepper and other spices create another layer of interest. Try offering a selection of different chèvre flavors for guests to taste.
Halloumi hails from Cyprus and has a distinctive salty, herbaceous flavor. When cooked or grilled, it has a unique squeaky texture that pairs well with fuller white wines like Chardonnay or even lighter reds like Pinot Noir. The firm texture stands up well when served with pita chips, crackers or crusty bread alongside roasted vegetables or olive tapenade. Try grilling or pan frying halloumi slices to serve as appetizers for a Mediterranean flair.
Queso fresco is a fresh Mexican cheese made from cow or goat’s milk. It has a mild, milky flavor and crumbly, moist texture. The mild palate-cleansing taste pairs nicely with crisp whites like Pinot Grigio or fruity Beaujolais reds. For a twist, try serving queso fresco crumbled over salads or tacos, or use as a dip with tortilla chips. Its fresh flavor accents dishes without overwhelming.
Smooth, creamy fresh ricotta has a rich taste that pairs well with light whites like Pinot Grigio. Use as a dip with plain crackers or bread. For another option, try ricotta salata. This firm, aged ricotta has a salty, milky flavor that stands up well to bolder reds like Chianti Classico or Shiraz. Its firm grating texture is ideal for pasta dishes. Both fresh and aged ricotta add Italian flair to cheese boards.
Tips for Pairing Cheese, Crackers and Wine
- Match intensities – pair mild cheeses with light wines and stronger cheeses with full-bodied wines
- Complementary flavors work best – nutty cheeses + oak aged wines, fruit flavors + fruity wines
- Increased acidity in wine cuts the richness of cheese – try sparkling wines
- Creamy soft cheeses pair well with crisp crackers, firm cheeses with hearty crackers
- Set out 3-5 cheeses for variety of textures and flavors
- Let flavors marry – enjoy cheeses and wines at room temp, serve crackers freshly crisped
- Add fruit, nuts or chutney for more complexity
- Be adventurous! Taste different combinations to experience new flavors
1. What wines pair best with different cheese textures?
Soft, creamy cheeses match light, fruity wines like Pinot Noir or Beaujolais. Hard, crumbly cheeses stand up to fuller reds like Cabernet and Malbec. Firm, sliceable cheeses work with medium-bodied Chardonnay or Merlot. Fresh cheeses pair nicely with crisp Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.
2. What crackers work best with wine and cheese?
Plain or lightly salted crackers pair well with soft cheeses. Hearty whole grain or multi-grain crackers complement aged, hard cheeses. Sturdy rosemary or olive crackers balance tangy goat cheeses. Crisp water crackers are ideal with pungent blue cheeses.
3. Should cheese and wine have complementary flavors?
Yes, pairing complementary flavors creates the most enjoyable pairing. Nutty aged cheddar with oaky Chardonnay or fruity Stilton with sweet Port are classic examples. Match intensity too – mild cheeses with light wines.
4. How can I elevate a cheese board for guests?
Offer 3-5 cheese varieties for diverse textures and flavors. Include fruit, nuts or chutney for added interest. Let cheeses come to room temp before serving for full aroma and taste. Arrange on a decorative wooden plank for rustic flair.
5. What cheese should I avoid pairing with wine?
Fresh mozzarella and ricotta have such mild flavors that bolder cheeses often overpower them. Extremely hard grating cheeses like Parmesan can also clash with wines. Pair these on their own with neutral crackers.
6. Can I make unusual cheese and wine pairings?
Absolutely! Taste different combinations to find new delightfully surprising pairings. Just match strength of flavors and consider textures. A creamy blue cheese might pair nicely with a fruity Zinfandel, for example.
7. Should I provide serving tips for my cheese board?
Yes, provide small knives for spreading soft cheese. Offer cheese knives for harder cheeses. Provide plates and napkins for guests to create their own sampling. Educate guests on the cheeses and wines as they taste the pairings.
With this guide to the best cheese and wine pairings, you now have the knowledge to design a sophisticated cheese board sure to impress guests. Pay attention to the textures, flavors, and boldness levels in both the wine and cheese to create ideal pairings. Then serve with your favorite crackers and enjoy discovering new taste sensations.
A cheese board paired with wines and crackers makes for an interactive culinary experience. Encourage your guests to taste different combinations and expand their palates. The varying flavors and textures will keep the tasting experience interesting. Not only can you sample an array of cheeses, you get to try several wines that complement them.
Cheese and wine pairing parties are a great way to bring people together. As guests mingle, they can discuss the cheeses and wines, debating their favorites. New friendships can be forged over shared appreciation of the perfect bite. Tasting new flavors often brings out people’s inherent creativity and curiosity.
So go forth and start planning your next cheese and wine exploration. Try some daring combinations or stick with the classic pairings recommended here. You may find yourself delighted by new flavors you never expected to enjoy together. Pay attention to your guests’ reactions as well – you might get some helpful feedback for your next pairing party. However you choose to serve them, cheeses, wines, and crackers can certainly provide memorable mindful moments.
Best Cheeses for Crackers and Wine
- Parmesan Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Pecorino Pecorino Romano
- Queso Fresco
- Ricotta including Ricotta Salata as a bonus cheese
- Select 3-5 varied cheeses.
- Include a mix of textures: hard, soft, semi-soft.
- Cut cheeses into wedges, cubes, or slices. Arrange attractively on a serving board/platter.
- Add cheese accompaniments: crackers, nuts, fruits, chutney, jam, honey, olives, dried fruit.
- Arrange accompaniments around the cheeses.
- Garnish cheese board with fresh herbs.
- Serve at room temperature with a cheese knife and crackers for spreading.