How To Build A Sommelier-Approved Cheese Board To Pair With Pinot Noir

When putting together the ultimate cheese board, the cheese is, of course, super important, but you may actually want to start with another component first: the wine. Once you've decided on the wine you'll be serving, you can choose cheeses that best complement that wine. And if you're a fan of pinot noir, a type of red wine, and know that you want to serve that at your next dinner party, then you're in luck because Tasting Table spoke with an expert to find out which cheeses pair best with pinot noir. The expert in question is Andrew Elder, the sommelier and service director at Hive Hospitality.

Elder says, "Pinot Noir is a versatile grape that produces many different styles of wine. With that in mind, it can complement quite a variety of cheeses ranging from soft and washed-rinds, savory and nutty, and even aromatically funky cheeses." So, now that it's clear that pinot noir is a good choice to pair with a range of cheeses, let's get into the specifics.

Which soft cheeses pair well with pinot noir?

When asked which soft cheese would make for a delicious complement to pinot noir, one cheese came to Elder's mind: epoisses. Elder explains, "A cheese native to Burgundy, France — Pinot Noir's spiritual homeland — [epoisses] is washed with local Marc (brandy made from the used grapes of wine production) and develops a uniquely pungent aroma as it ages." Epoisses isn't exactly a common cheese that you're likely to find at your local supermarket, so if you can't find it, then you may need to find a substitute. It has been compared to munster cheese, which is a bit more common and should work well as a backup.

Additionally, if you do find epoisses cheese, it's important to keep in mind that it is quite a "stinky" cheese with a strong smell. If you're sensitive to that, you may want to grab just a small amount of epoisses for your cheese board. However, try not to judge epoisses based on its pungent smell — it has plenty of merit with its taste.

The perfect hard cheeses to add a bite

As for hard cheeses, Elder recommends Parmigiano Reggiano. Elder explains, "This iconic Italian cheese is known for its savory qualities with nutty notes and mouth watering salinity. Best enjoyed alongside a lighter and earthier style of wine." Elder also recommends Taleggio, another Italian cheese, which is known for having a mix of fruity and meaty flavor as well as a "notable aroma." Elder continues, "This cheese can handle a pinot noir with a little more fruit qualities on the palate."

While you likely won't have any trouble finding Parmigiano Reggiano in stores, you may not come across Taleggio as easily. If you need to find a substitute for it, a comparable cheese is Fontina, which shares a similar aroma but has a bit of a stronger flavor. Either way, a combination of Parmigiano Reggiano and Taleggio or Fontina will make for a great combination of hard cheeses to pair with a glass of pinot noir.

Throw in a few funky cheeses as well

What about funky cheeses to include on the board besides Elder's soft cheese pick of epoisses? Elder recommends chevre cheese, which refers to a cheese made from goat's milk. Elder says, "A really delicious pairing with a soft and fruity new-world pinot noir is chevre that has been rolled in dried cherries or cranberries. The perfect balance of tart and funk with juicy red fruit notes is matched and enhanced with similar qualities in the wine."

Of course, there are several varieties of goat cheese, so you'll want to look out for one that fits Elder's exact recommendation with the inclusion of dried fruit. If you're unable to find a chevre with dried cranberries or cherries, then a back up idea may be to pick out a more basic chevre, then include dried cranberries or cherries as part of the overall cheese board.

Round out your cheese board with the ideal accoutraments

Now that you've picked out which cheeses will be the star of the show, it's time to round out the cheese board. After all, no cheese board is complete without some other non-cheese snacks for guests to enjoy. With this cheese arrangement, Elder says that the board needs to be rounded out with something acidic or pickled. Elder recommends including things like "gherkins, pickled root vegetables, and whole grain mustard. This acidity would balance the softer and richer cheeses."

Along with something acidic, you'll also need something sweet. Elder says, "One should also include a variety of sweeter-fruit notes, such as fresh or dried stone fruits, berry compote, and candied nuts." Elder notes that these sweet items will pair well with the funky cheeses. He also says that they "provide a bridge of flavor to the otherwise savory characteristics of the cheeses." Finally, the last item you need to include is a vessel to put the cheese on top of. He recommends herbed crostini, lavash bread, "as well as an assortment of crackers with nuts and fruits baked in."