If there’s one food that can match Italian wine in terms of the sheer depth of variety on offer, it has to be cheese. There are so many different varieties of cheeses available that those who haven’t really experimented with the food before can end up feeling lost. That’s probably why cheddar is the most popular cheese. It’s simple, easy, and everybody knows what it is.
We don’t mean to besmirch the good name of cheddar, of course. It’s an exceptional cheese in its own right. The point we’re making is that cheese can be a little intimidating to people who aren’t familiar with all of the varieties. You may just end up sticking with what you know, rather than taking the time to experiment with as many cheeses as possible.
Does that sound familiar?
Those who are new to Italian wine often do the exact same thing. They find a couple of vintages that they like and they rarely stray away from them. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it does mean that they’re missing out on all sorts of other amazing treats.
We hope to broaden your horizons, just a little bit.
And that brings us around nicely to the subject of this article. Today, we’re going to be taking a look at a cheese that a lot of people have heard of, even if they have never tried it before.
We’re talking about the brilliant Gorgonzola. Here, we’ll take a closer look at the cheese itself before examining some of the wine pairings that we think go really well with it.
What is Gorgonzola Cheese?
Gorgonzola may well be one of the oldest cheeses to come out of Italy. It’s certainly among the oldest blue-veined cheeses in the entire world.
Let’s look at the basics first. Gorgonzola is made using cow’s milk, with the cheese usually having a fat content that falls somewhere between 25% and 35%. To the touch, it’s both firm and crumbly. The cheese keeps its shape well, but it’s also easy to break pieces away from the main block.
Depending on the producer and its age, the cheese can have either a mild or a sharp flavouring. One thing that is common across all varieties of the cheese is its trademark nutty aroma. This should give you a few clues about the wines that you’ll pair with it, but we’ll get to those in a moment.
Much like Italian wines, the cheese has a main area of production. It’s primarily made in Northern Italy, with the Lombardy and Piedmont regions perhaps being the most renowned for making the cheese. Of course, there are other regions that make it too. But we’d suggest that the really true experience comes from the Gorgonzolas made in this regions.
While the cow’s milk used in its production is pasteurised, it’s also unskimmed. This accounts for the high fat content found in the cheese. Again much like wine, it also has to undergo an ageing period before it reaches its full ripeness. For Gorgonzola, this period typically lasts about three months.
The cheese also comes in a couple of different varieties: Gorgonzola Dolce and Gorgonzola Piccante. The latter is perhaps the most well-known of the two and it has a fairly mild taste to it, assuming it hasn’t aged too much. Dolce is a much sweeter variety of the cheese, which ca make it something of an acquired taste.
This is something to keep in mind when choosing wine pairings too. We’ll be covering some good options for the standard variety of Gorgonzola below. But if you do decided on a Dolce, you’ll need a wine that’s not so mild that the sweetness of the cheese overpowers it.
The good news is that Gorgonzola is also one of the more popular cheeses around. Those who want to give it a try likely won’t struggle to find it in the local supermarket. And if you do, you certainly won’t have any trouble finding it online. Of course, those who want the most authentic experience possible may want to consider eating Gorgonzola in a restaurant in Lombardy or Piedmont. This isn’t an option that’s open to most people, but it’s something to keep in mind should you ever find yourself in those regions.
The Wine Pairings
The types of wine that you choose to pair with Gorgonzola cheese generally depends on the age of the cheese. The increased spiciness that comes with age changes your options, so it’s important to know how old your cheese is before buying the wine.
For a spicier Gorgonzola, it’s best to stick to some of the true classic Italian red wines. Barolo, Barbaresco and Amarone are all great choices because they all have a depth of flavour that complements the cheese’s spiciness extremely well.
We also recommend matching this version of the cheese with sweeter or even fortified wines. Trying to go for a mild white wine could lead to the cheese completely overpowering the drink, rather than complementing it.
But what if you have a younger version of the cheese? In these cases, you need to lean more towards the milder side of the Italian wine collection. Great white wines work well with a young Gorgonzola. Pinot Bianco is an excellent choice, though you may also want to sample a Riesling.
This version of the cheese also matches well with Rosé wines.
That’s not to say that Italian red wines are off the table though. A Chianti Classico works surprisingly well with younger Gorgonzola, as does a Dolcetta. You may also wish to try a Barbera, though we’d lean more towards the sparkling variety in that case.
The Final Word
With all of this information, it’s easy to see why many people may feel intimidated by the prospect of trying to pair a Gorgonzola with a wine. There are just so many options available that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
Our guidance should help you to make some good choices. Just ensure you make note of the age of the cheese before you choose a wine for it.