Summer Wines for Appetizers & Cheeses

by Elysian Magazine

Raise a glass to summer brunches, parties and celebrations with these delectable wine, cheese and appetizer pairings that will set you up for success with your next hosting event.

A tempting appetizer table with a gorgeous charcuterie board, delicious bite-sized hors d’oeuvres, or an artfully arranged crudités platter creates a welcoming way to kick off any party. But before you pull out all your favorite wines, it’s helpful to review a few basics when it comes to pairing these enticing apps with summer whites and reds.

The main idea behind pairing wine with any food is that the flavors of each should be congruent or complementary. Just like wine, cheese can have complex flavors. Your wine choice should, ideally, enhance those flavors rather than clash.

If you’re new to wine pairing, it’s worth running a tasting experiment before your next event. And honestly, what’s more fun than indulging in a little pre-party pairing sesh? Put these simple guidelines into practice and let your taste buds guide you as you nosh your way to understanding these basic principles.

From classic cheese appetizers to more substantial hors d’oeuvres with cured meats and brined finger foods, these pairing suggestions will allow you to entertain with ease at your next summer event.

Basic Tips for Pairing Wine with Cheese

While it’s true that matching the right wine with the right cheese is a bit of an art form, these basic guidelines will have you confidently choosing pairings that will result in a deliciously palatable experience.

  • Match to Intensity: The idea here is simple: Match a lighter wine with lighter cheeses. Match a bolder wine with a more intense cheese. For example, pair a sparkling wine with soft cheeses and a full-bodies wine with an aged cheese.
  • Pair to Contrast: This tip will seem counterintuitive to the idea listed above, but it provides a nuanced taste when implemented. Pair a sweet wine with a complex cheese to create a balanced effect. For example, a dessert wine matched with a strong bleu cheese will achieve a balance between the sweetness and saltiness.
  • Stay Regional: Choose from within the same geographical area when matching. For example, a French wine would be paired with a French cheese; an Italian wine with an Italian cheese.

Basic Tips for Pairing Wine with Other Appetizers

If you’re planning a charcuterie platter that will include cheese, cured meats, fruits, nuts and other finger foods, you’ll still want to pair your wine to be compatible with those myriad flavors. Typically, charcuterie will contain a range of salty and fatty foods which will pair well with crisp white wines and lighter red wines with high acidity.

If you’re considering a crudités platter that takes advantage of summer’s fresh vegetable bounty, it’s always a safe bet to choose a white wine with a herbaceous flavor profile.

Best Summer Varietals for Pairing with Warm Weather Appetizers

This collection of varietals offers the most accessible and well-known summer wines that are excellent pairings for cheese and other appetizers.

Sparking Wines

This sweet sparkling Italian wine dips into the dessert category with its fruity notes. Even though sweet, it’s best paired with earthy cheeses and salty appetizers to achieve balance. Try it with cheeses like Brie, Camembert, and Parmigiano Reggiano. It’s perfect for serving with ​salty nuts, olives, breadsticks, and berries.

Crisp, fruity and vibrant, a light rosé with good acidity will offer a counterbalance to soft and mellow cheeses and fresh crudités without overpowering. It’s a versatile wine that’s refreshing and offers a wide range of appetizer ideas as accompaniments. Suggested cheese pairings are Havarti, goat Gouda, Feta, baby Swiss and cheddar. Salty foods such as prosciutto, nuts and olives are a delicious choice.

White Wines

Sauvignon Blanc
With its herbaceous and citrus notes, acidic yet creamy undertones, sauvignon blanc is possibly summer’s most enjoyed white wine. It offers tropical flavors while managing to be dry, crisp and tart, making it an excellent match for many summer appetizers. Pair it with goat Gouda, Gruyere, sharp cheddar, Colby, Asiago, Camembert, provolone and Roquefort. Practically any salty, cured meat and brined foods such as olives will be a tasty match.

Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris
With its high acidity, this ultra crisp white wine is a favorite summer choice. It matches with creamy cheese and fresh summer vegetables. Its best experience when well-chilled and offers a magnificent counterpoint to vinegar-based foods. Pair it with cheeses like Feta, cheddar and mozzarella. It’s perfect served with a crudités platter and briney foods.

Unoaked Chardonnay
While a traditional oaked chardonnay may offer too much robust flavor and buttery notes, the unoaked varietal is a lighter choice for summer pairings. Its medium-high acidity and fruitiness leads to a crisp and dry finish with mineral undertones. This naked chardonnay pairs well with fresh vegetables, heavier cheeses and salty foods. Try it with goat Gouda, Brie, Swiss, provolone and Gruyere as well as a summer crudités platter.

Red Wine

Pinot Noir
Lighter and airier than a full-bodied cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir offers its berry-nuanced notes for a summer wine that pairs well with cured meats and nutty cheeses. When in doubt about choosing a summer red, pinot noir would be a safe choice. Suggested cheese pairing are Gruyere, blue, Camembert, Brie and Swiss. Pair it with the saltiness of prosciutto or salami.

Let these basic principles guide you when choosing a wine to enhance your summer appetizers. Eat, drink, and enjoy the tastes of a harmonious pairing.

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