The Best Wine To Pair With Smelly Cheeses, According To An Expert

There may be no food and drink pairing more classic than wine and cheese, and it often seems simple enough to match the two. Whether you have creamy goat cheese, sharp cheddar, or salty feta, there are numerous reds, whites, and even bubbles to choose from that can complement them. However, finding a wine that mingles well in your mouth with smellier varieties like Limburger, Taleggio, or Epoisses de Bourgogne can be a bit more challenging.

Doreen Winkler, a sommelier, natural wine expert, and consulting sommelier for several restaurants — including the new Mishik in New York City — told Food Republic that one of the most common misconceptions about pairing wine with cheese, especially a stronger-smelling option, is that a full-bodied red wine should be your go-to choice. Winkler points out that these types of reds often overpower, rather than complement, the pungent dairy.

"I highly recommend pairing strong-smelling cheeses with an aged full-bodied orange wine. Most stinky cheeses are fuller-bodied, richer, and creamier and often have a washed rind, so a full-bodied orange wine and stinky cheese is a dream pairing," Winkler said.

What is orange wine?

Orange wine has surged in popularity in recent years and is, indeed, orange in color, ranging from subtle to bright and vibrant shades. The wine's hue comes from the process by which it's made.

"Orange wines are made with white grapes in the same way red wines are — after pressing, the juice is kept in contact with the grape skins, which gives the wine more structure and flavor," said Doreen Winkler.

Both the color and the flavor of orange wines are affected by the length of time the grapes are allowed to macerate, as well as the temperature during fermentation. Additionally, orange wine can be made using any white grape, which further determines its flavor notes. Often, however, orange wines possess a certain savory quality that complements pungent profiles, along with enough acidity to cut through the fat of whichever stinky cheese you choose to pair them with.

Specific wines to drink with smelly cheese

When choosing an orange wine to sip with strong-smelling cheese, Doreen Winkler recommends choosing one like Radikon Ribolla Gialla 2005. This full-bodied wine from northeastern Italy has spicy, fruity, and floral notes as well as a subtle nuttiness.

"[It] pairs well with the richness of the cheese. The wine is layered and offers a perfect textural experience. And the minerality of the wine will balance the often salty flavor of the cheese. This is an experience you won't forget!" Winkler advised.

If you can't track down Winkler's recommendation, or a similar bottle, she has another pairing suggestion, too. For cheeses like Roquefort, a crumbly, tangy blue cheese, Winkler recommends sipping on a Sauternes dessert wine. Citrusy, sweet, and sporting undertones of warm spice, this French wine is an ideal contrast to the flavor of stronger cheeses.

"The sweet honey and orange blossom notes from the dessert wine like Sauternes complements the spicy notes of the cheese perfectly."