Like wine, the world of cheese can be an intimidating and confusing one for neophytes. With so many variables that run the gamut from flavor to texture, customers shopping for or ordering cheese may feel a bit in over their head. And understandably so. That's why you need a reputable, whip-smart shop like Lush Wine and Spirits to help you navigate the cheesy seas. Herewith, Chicago's wine and cheese shop shares their definitive guide to cheeses by strength. Ranked from mildest to stinkiest, Lush also recommends starting with hard cheese and finishing with softer cheeses, seeing as softer and creamier versions tend to coat and overwhelm the palate. With each cheese below, the shop lists recommended beer and wine pairings.
5). Bonde d'Antan, goat cheese from Loire Valley - This one is nutty and tangy, with a subtle goat flavor nestled inside.
Beer: St. Sylvestre's Gavroche. Spicy, fruity, and earthy, this beer is ripe for balancing the tangy qualities of the cheese.
Wine: While a more classic pairing with this cheese would be a Sancerre, Sauvignon Blanc, Lush prefers Chennin Blanc - 2010 Domaine de la Bergerie, Sous la Tonnele.
4). Bohemian Blue - bright, sweet, milky flavor with briny and grassy notes and a bit of spicy bite reminiscent of Roquefort.
Beer: Goose Island Night Stalker. This rich Imperial Stout sports roasty flavors that match nicely with the intensity of this cheese and provides the perfect finish to a winter meal.
Wine: Sweet wines are a classic pairing with blue cheese. Lush recommends the '07 Domaine de Montbourgeau.
3). Gorgonzola - soft, crumbly blue cheese with a nutty aroma from northern Italy. It can have a mild to sharp taste depending on its age.
Beer: Against the Grain's 35K. This oatmeal cream stout that has a bit of sweetness in it, with less roasty characters than other stouts. It cuts through the cheese to create potable-edible harmony.
Wine: Try a ruby port, like the '07 Ruby from Barros.
2). Grayson - A sticky and stinky cheese from Virginia. A cheese with a high intensity of aroma similar to onions and beef.
Beer: Maine Beer Co. King Titus Porter. A cheese with such gamey flavor calls for a beer that is robust, earthy, and roasty. This beer has it all, capable of standing up and complementing this cheese.
Wine: '07 Coeur D'alene WA-Viognier. It's a nice, rich wine to match the richness of the cheese.
1). Pont l'Eveque - a soft and very rich cheese, with creamy and full-bodied flavor. Made in Normandy since the 12th century.
Beer: Brasserie De La Senne Jambe-de-Bois. The bitterness cuts through the richness of the cheese while the sweet malts allows the cow's flavors to come through.
Cider: Classic pairing for such a classic cheese is Eric Bordelet-argelet, Normandy-France.
- Matt Kirouac