How to Pair Wine and Goat Cheese

by JJ Buckley Fine Wines

Herbed chevre goat cheese on a wood board

Few culinary matches are more complementary than wine and cheese. Together, wine and cheese create an indulgent duo of satisfying flavors in endless combinations.

When the tradition of pairing wine with cheese was coming into popularity several hundred years ago in Europe, gourmets had but a few cheese and wine choices. The process of selecting the best wine and cheese pairs was straightforward. Hosts could simply try all the combinations and choose which one suited the event.

Today, it would take a wine and cheese-loving mathematician to accurately list all the potential wine and cheese combinations available to consumers. Most major grocers dedicate a sizable percentage of floor space to both wine and cheese and offer hundreds of choices in both categories.

It’s no wonder that even veteran wine enthusiasts can feel a bit intimidated by the prospect of pairing the right wine with the right cheese. This is especially true of the lesser-known goat cheese category.

Goat Cheese and Wine Pairing Tips

Goat cheese, or the French “chevre,” is a category of cheese that has grown in popularity in recent years. Cheese lovers can find a goat’s milk-based cheese in just about any form.

Here are the main categories and varieties you’re likely to find at the cheese counter:

  • Fresh Goat Cheese
  • Aged or Hard Goat Cheese
  • Brined Goat Cheese

Each of these categories is similar to cheese produced with other types of milk, but goat’s milk cheeses offer a unique flavor profile. Most goat's milk cheeses are tangier than their cow’s milk counterparts. Goat’s milk cheese is also not as hardy as cow’s milk cheese. Goat’s milk can’t stand up to the long aging processes common to cheeses made from cow’s milk.

Fresh goat cheese is the type often labeled with the French translation “chèvre,” which literally translates simply to “goat.” Fresh goat cheese has a texture similar to cream cheese and is spreadable, but a bit crumbly. This type of goat cheese is often packaged into small log shapes and is frequently flavored with fruits or spices such as pepper.

Aged (hard) goat cheese is similar to hard cow’s milk cheddar cheeses. Though less tangy than fresh goat cheese, the cheeses in this category are often sharper than most cow’s milk cheddars. Goudas, Humboldt, and even variations on hard parmesan cheeses can be produced from goat’s milk. These varieties tend to take on a sweet or nutty tang.

Brined goat cheese is a less-frequent offering at most cheese stands. As you might have predicted, brined goat cheese is aged in a salty brine. The salty, crumbly result allows cheesemakers to create options like goat’s milk feta.

Pairing wine and goat cheese is similar to pairing wine and cow’s milk cheese. The general rule of thumb is to match intensities and aim for balance.

Suggestions for Pairing Wine and Goat Cheese

Here are some recommendations for fine wines that pair well with a variety of popular goat cheeses and goat-cheese dishes.

Cheese Plate Pairings

These goat's milk cheeses are often included among cheese plate selections.

Spreadable Chèvre Style

This type of goat’s milk cheese can be spread on crackers or used more like a crudité dip. Most spreadable chèvre has a tangy, bright flavor. A little goes a long way. Sparkling wines can be an ideal match for spreadable goat cheeses. Consider a Cabernet Franc or a Champagne blend.

Log-Style Chèvre

Often served in thin slices or crumbled with dried fruit like cranberries or cherries, a log-style chèvre is a cheese plate staple. To pair with this cheese, go for something with earthier notes, like a Malbec or Grenache. This pairing will result in a rich, lingering flavor your guests will savor.

Goat Gouda and Cheddar

These hard goat’s milk cheeses tend to have a nutty quality that can be challenging to properly pair. Here, you might take a look at other components on your cheese plate. Try selecting a fresh grape that will blend well with both the cheese and the wine choice. Syrah is an excellent choice with both goat gouda and cheddar. Add some classic Concord grapes to round out the plate.

Aged Goat Cheese

Goat cheeses in the aged category offer more depth than other goat’s milk varieties. Typically served in small slices or cubes, these cheeses need a pairing partner that has an equal depth. Merlot is a fine choice. Consider an interesting red blend, too, especially one noted for imparting an earthy profile.

Brined Goat Cheese

The uniqueness of brined goat cheese makes it a tricky cheese plate offering all around. The saltiness might lead you to a drinkable white, but the complexity lends itself to something more substantial. It may help to look to pairing suggestions for Mediterranean foods, especially wine selections that complement the brininess of fresh seafood. Consider a crisp, dry Riesling or a bright Sauvignon Blanc to help balance the salt.

Goat-cheese Dishes

These pairing suggestions take into account recipes that feature goat’s milk cheese alongside other ingredients.

Goat Cheese Pasta Dishes

Creamy pasta dishes that include soft goat cheeses tend toward the rich side. These dishes incorporate flavors like garlic, cracked pepper, and sun-dried tomatoes. An oaked white Chardonnay pairs well with creamy pasta dishes.

Grilled Meats with Goat Cheese

Grilled vegetables, chicken, or seafood topped with crumbled goat cheese is a fantastic warm-weather dish. This simple preparation imparts a great deal of flavor into a light, summery recipe. A white blend is always a good match for grilled chicken or seafood. A trendier option is a fun, drinkable rosé.

Goat Cheese Cheesecake

Given the similarity of soft goat cheese to cream cheese, it’s no surprise that imaginative pastry chefs have tackled a goat cheese cheesecake. It turns out they were onto something. These days, goat cheese cheesecakes frequently appear on dessert menus. Much like regular cheesecake, goat cheese cheesecake pairs well with late-harvest Sauvignon Blanc and Moscato d’Asti.

Key Takeaways

Goat’s milk cheese is an ever-increasing category of gourmet cheese. While the various goat cheese varieties are similar to their cow’s milk counterparts, goat cheeses have a unique, typically tangier profile. This difference should be taken into account when pairing goat cheese and wine.

Take a look at the JJ Buckley Fine Wines online catalog to find the right wine for every type of goat cheese.

Still not sure what to serve? Don’t worry! Our consultancy team is standing by to help you solve pairing dilemmas, recommend well-rated wines, or to steer you toward your new favorite bottle.