Page last updated at 00:21 GMT, Thursday, 19 January 2006

Wine and cheese 'not best match'

Wine and cheese
Stronger cheeses masked wine flavours more than milder ones

The classic wine and cheese party should become a thing of the past, if US research is to be believed.

A team of 11 expert tasters found their palettes dulled when they ate a range of strong and mild cheeses, before eight red wines of varying quality.

The cheese suppressed almost all flavours, even strong ones, research to be published in the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture in March said.

The team concluded cheese proteins must coat the mouth, deadening perceptions.

The researchers, led by Dr Hildegard Heymann from the University of California, Davis, asked their panel to compare cheap and more expensive bottles of wine from four different varieties without cheese.

It depends on what wine you put with what cheese. There are always good pairings but you can't generalise
Jeffrey Benson
Wine and Cheese Society

They then had to taste the wine after a bite of eight different types of cheeses ranging from strong stilton and gorgonzola to the milder mozzarella and emmental.

The tasters were asked to evaluate the strength of various flavours and aromas of the wine.

But they found the cheese suppressed almost every flavour including sourness and astringency, and berry and oak.

The only aroma enhanced by the cheese was a butter aroma, the researchers found.

However, stronger cheeses appeared to mask the wine flavour more than milder cheese.

Dr Heymann suggests that fat from the cheese may bind to flavour molecules in the wine, or that it might coat the mouth.


She said she decided to carry out the study because she had read many articles in the popular press about good food and wine combinations but little scientific research had been published.

However, she added: "The research wasn't about bad or good combinations. We were instead looking at cheeses that may or may not affect the flavour of the wine."

The cheese simply dulled the wine-tasters' ability to experience the wine's subtleties, she said.

But Jeffrey Benson, of the Wine and Dine Society, said he totally disagreed with the research findings.

"It depends on what wine you put with what cheese. There are always good pairings but you can't generalise.

'Common sense'

"You can't just pooh-pooh the whole thing."

A wine-taster for 35 years, Mr Benson said: "Tasting wine is so subjective; it's like tasting food. Not everyone tastes the same things.

"But what I always say is it's common sense. If you put a light fish like a grilled sole with a heavy wine it's not going to be very good."

However, combinations such as brie and camembert and a sauvignon blanc or a mature chablis worked well, he said.

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