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Updated: Nov 18, 2021

We all know two of life's greatest marriages are cheese & wine, but how many award winning North Carolina wines have you paired with award winning Wisconsin Cheese? We brought America's Dairyland and our Tar Heel State together for a unique partnership. This wine & cheese pairing is under the stewardship and guidance of Suzanne Fanning, a Wilmington, NC native, graduate of New Hanover High, and now Chief Marketing Officer for Wisconsin’s $44 billion dairy industry.

We chose 4 of our favorite North Carolina wines and Fanning put together a unique pairing of Wisconsin cheese for your next wine & cheese tasting. When selecting wine to pair alongside cheese, keep in mind the flavor, body and overall intensity of the wine you'll be serving." Wine makes a great match for cheese – the flavors and acidity in the wine serve as a palate cleanser between bites of cheese helping cut the fat that coats the mouth," advises Fanning.

When choosing cheese to pair with wine, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Match the level of intensity. You wouldn’t put a lightweight in the ring with a heavyweight, so don’t serve a pinot grigio with a bold, aged cheddar. Pair a bold, aged cheddar with an intense red wine and a fresh burrata with a light white.

  2. Skip the Sweet: Reach for dry wines.

  3. When in doubt, sparkle! Bubbles are very forgiving, so if you want a surefire winner, pretty much everything goes with bubbles.

Suzanne Fanning, CMO of Wisconsin Cheese
Suzanne Fanning, CMO of Wisconsin Cheese

Relatively unknown to the United States, Vermentino is famously produced in the Italian regions of Liguria and Sardegna. While Pinot Grigio leans more toward higher levels of acidity, Vermentino typically has lower levels of acidity and is best consumed shortly after bottling. Piccione have been growing it since 2010 and have been making a 100% Estate Grown Vermentino since 2014. Light and complex Vermentino, with subtle floral aromas and citrus notes pairs perfectly with tart, salty, fresh feta cheese.

Pair with a Wisconsin feta such as Odyssey® Traditional Feta

Brief Cheese Description: A 2019 World Championship Cheese Contest winner, this cheese has a firm yet crumbly texture that is tangy and salty to the taste but never bitter.

The name and the wine pays homage North Carolina. The Carolinas were named to honor King Charles IX of France, King Charles I & King Charles II of England. The Latin name for Charles is Carolus and thus the name given to the Carolinas. The XII signifies that North Carolina was the 12th colony to join of the original 13 colonies of what became this great country. The wine is a robust blend of 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, 7% Syrah, 6% Petit Verdot, 3% Chambourcin, 3% Cabernet Franc. A strong red blend goes best with hard aged cheeses that packs their own intense flavor to match the oaky finish and high tannins of a full-bodied red.

Pair with a Wisconsin alpine-style cheese such as Roth Private Reserve

Brief Cheese Description: Made from the best batch of seasonal raw milk sourced locally from family farms, this cheese is made in small batches in traditional copper vats and cellar aged and washed, brushed, flipped and cared for by skilled Cellar Masters until it’s reached optimal flavor - usually 6 plus months or more. Roth’s Private Reserve has won 14 awards!

Sanctuary Vineyards is located on a quaint seaside farm where you are likely to see rows of corn competing with Cabernet and migratory snow geese nesting among the Sangiovese. The vineyards come alive in the spring, and produce foliage, flowers and most importantly, fruit, as the season progresses. At the peak of ripeness, they pick their grapes by hand. This full-bodied Rosé made with Tannat and Syrah has luscious flavors of cherry, raspberry and rhubarb which goes down well with a rich and decadent butterkäse.

Pair with a Wisconsin Butterkäse such as Edelweiss Creamery’s Butterkäse

Brief Cheese Description: Butterkäse is a decadently creamy cow’s milk cheese that’s incredibly popular in Germany and Austria where it originated. In Wisconsin, we also loudly sing its praises, and when we do, we pronounce it booter-keh-zuh. Butterkäse is short for “buttery cheese” because of its soft and silky, butter-like texture. This award-winning cheese truly represents how Wisconsin is a world of cheese in just one state. Even more, Bruce Workman, a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker, watches over and helps his talented team make award winning Wisconsin Artisan Cheese at Edelweiss Creamery including the Butter.

Nestled near the Yadkin River and Blue Ridge Mountains, the rolling hills and gentle slopes of the Raffaldini vineyard are blessed with mild breezes that constantly freshen and circulate air. Unique to the vineyard is an abundance of broken granite and schist which provide for excellent soil drainage and give the grapes a very distinctive terroir.

A dry, light to medium bodied wine, the 2019 Sangiovese Classico possesses dry, earthy aromas with medium tannins and bountiful acids. Bright, lush red fruit in the form of bing cherries and cranberries, followed by a hint of earth, red currant and rhubarb. A wine like this exceptionally well balanced Sangiovese is best paired with a blue cheese with a mellow, earthy flavor and soft, creamy finish.

Pair with a Wisconsin blue such as Salemville® blue

Brief Cheese Description: Straight from Wisconsin, The State of Cheese, the Award-winning Salemville® blue is recognized for its well-balanced, earthy flavor and picturesque veining. A rich and smooth rBGH-free cheese, it is remarkably delicate.

Fanning's favorite pairing is Cabernet Sauvignon and Blue Cheese.

"Blue cheese takes a little bit of palate training to fully appreciate. (So, we recommend you start training your palate ASAP.) Cabernet Sauvignon is full-bodied, tannic, and dry, which pairs well with a firmer, more crumbly blue cheese. They both pack a punch on their own, but together they balance out to be a sophisticated crowd-pleaser, says Fanning.

"If you’re the type to “Rose all day,” you might want to consider a mixed milk cheese. We like to say that a blend of cow, sheep, and goat in one cheese is a real party in the pasture."


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