Cheese makes a great gift for the winter holidays—and so do cheesy accessories like cheese knives, cheese graters, and the Cheese Grotto! Check out our online store to shop the best cheese gifts of 2021.
Cheese is a year-round food, but some cheeses shine extra bright in the winter months. Maybe the season they’re made and their aging time means new wheels are ready to go just before the winter holidays. Others were developed to be made with the smaller quantities and richer quality of winter milk—and others are traditionally served hot, gooey, and melted.
They’re perfect for this cold, dark time of year—along with a great glass of wine, of course. Whether you’re looking for cheeses to pair with red wines, white wines, sparkling wines, or even rosé, there’s a winter stunner that will shine along with it. Here are some of our favorite winter cheeses and wine pairings to serve along with them.
Bloomy Rind Cheese and Wine Pairings
What would the winter holidays be without a round of lush, oozy Brie or Camembert? The luxurious textures of our favorite bloomy rinds—not to mention their snow-white coats—make them a must for a festive wintertime board.
Best of all, wheels consumed in November and December are made with rich fall milk, when the impending winter prompts a bump in the fat content of the milk but the animals are still grazing flavorful, late-season pastures. Just one of the many reasons to seek out your cheese from small, seasonal producers!
Pick your favorite bloomies—we love a six-pack of Jig, a lush little button from Lakin’s Gorges, Firefly Farms’ Merry Goat Round, Tulip Tree’s buttery triple-creme Trillium, and Kunik, a triple-creme round from Nettle Meadow. Then pair them with Chardonnay, a lightly oaked Chenin Blanc, a fruity Beaujolais, or a dry Riesling. Or go with the classic celebratory pairing: something bubbly and bone-dry, like Champagne or prosecco.
Alpine Cheese and Wine Pairings
The big, brawny cheeses of the French, Swiss, and Italian Alps have evolved over centuries of transhumance. In this agricultural practice, dairy farmers bring their flocks up the mountains to graze on the lush, high-altitude pastures during the spring and summer, making cheese as they go. To withstand the journey, these cheeses must be large, rugged, low-moisture, and low-salt, hence the nutty, savory Alpine cheeses we know and love.
Because they’re typically made in spring and summer, these styles often peak throughout the winter months. Plus, it just makes sense that we’d want to enjoy cheeses developed in a cold climate to warm us up during winter—especially when the French and Swiss gave us the chance to crowd around a warm, gooey pot of Gruyere and Emmental grated and melted into fondue.
Pair these and other Alpine cheeses like buttery Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Upland’s Cheese, Landmark Creamery’s mixed-milk Tallgrass Reserve, and Meadow Creek Dairy’s beefy Mountaineer with fruit-forward wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Beaujolais, dry Riesling, or Grüner Veltliner.
Raclette Cheese and Wine Pairings
Unlike its firm, low-moisture, long-aging cousins, Raclette has a semi-firm texture and a pungent aroma from regular washings in salt brine during the aging process. Instead of being grated and melted into a pot for communal dipping, Raclette is prepared a little differently.
Traditionally—and today in restaurants and ski chalets—half or quarter wheels are heated directly in front of a roaring fire, then the melted portion is scraped onto roasted potatoes. In the home, this process is typically done with an electric tabletop grill or candle-powered melter, with accompaniments like artisan bread or potatoes, pickled onions and cornichons, sliced cured meats, and whole-grain mustard. It’s a great way to get cozy around hot cheese, with each person melting their own as they go.
Pick up a wedge of Raclette-style cheese like Redhead Creamery’s St. Anthony and serve it with a crisp, dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, or a young Grüner Veltliner. Dry Riesling or a dry sparkling white are also great options. In terms of reds, go for a fruity Pinot Noir or Gamay.
Bark-Wrapped Cheese and Wine Pairings
We’ve learned about how dairy farmers make rugged, long-aged wheels with flavorful summer milk up in the Alps. But what do they do after they head back down to the valleys for the winter?
Well, they still make cheese—but these wheels are very different from the classic Alpine wheels. With the cows eating winter hay, the volume of milk they produce drops, and the fat content of that milk goes up. Richer milk and less of it means these makers produce small, soft-ripened wheels that ripen much more quickly, and with their higher fat content, those luscious rounds need a little extra support.
The solution? Strips of spruce bark from the forests wrapped around each wheel. With a little more structure, these wheels can ripen until their texture is scoopable and puddinglike—just peel back the top rind and dig in with a hunk of baguette, a forkful of roasted potato, or a spoon.
Uplands Cheese’s Rush Creek Reserve is the classic American artisan cheese made in this style and released in time for the winter holidays. Winnimere and Harbison, both from the Cellars at Jasper Hill, are also excellent examples of the style. Pair bark-wrapped cheeses with oaked white wines, dry Riesling, sparkling white or rose, or light-bodied reds.
Which cheeses are you celebrating this winter? Let us know!