The difference between French, Italian and Swiss cheeses – and how to pair them

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Cheese is an essential part of French, Italian and Swiss cuisine, but the type and way it’s consumed can differ greatly. Each country has its own tradition and specialty cheeses that reflect the flavors, climate, and traditions of the region. Here’s a quick rundown of what makes each cheese distinct, and how you can pair them best:

French Cheese
France is home to some of the world’s most famous cheeses, including brie, camembert, roquefort, comté, and goat cheese. French cheese is known for its distinct flavors and textures, which vary greatly depending on the region and the season. For example, brie comes in two main varieties: normal brie, which is soft and creamy, and brie de Meaux, which is earthy and nutty. Camembert, on the other hand, is known for its pungent and tangy flavor, while roquefort is famous for its sharp and salty taste.

When it comes to pairing French cheese, one rule of thumb is to match the intensity of the cheese with the intensity of the wine. For example, a powerful cheese like roquefort pairs well with a full-bodied red wine, while a lighter cheese like brie goes well with a white or sparkling wine. French cheese is also commonly eaten with bread and fruit, such as figs, grapes, and apricots.

Italian Cheese
Italy is famous for its cheeses such as parmesan, mozzarella, ricotta, gorgonzola, and pecorino. Just like in France, the flavor and texture of Italian cheese change depending on the region and season. Parmesan, for example, comes in aged and grated varieties, and is commonly used on pasta or as a garnish. Mozzarella, on the other hand, is deliciously soft and is the ideal cheese for pizza. Gorgonzola, which can be soft or hard, is recognizable by its unique blue veins and is often used in risotto dishes.

A traditional pairing for Italian cheese is wine, but it’s important to be mindful of the dish being served. For example, light-bodied red wines work well with fresh cheeses like mozzarella and ricotta, while rich reds, like a Chianti Classico DOCG, are ideal to balance out a stinky cheese like gorgonzola.

Swiss Cheese
Switzerland is known for its mountains and cows, and its cheese mirrors this. The cheese is often made in high altitudes, where the climate is ideal for producing its rich flavors. Swiss cheese is globally known for its delicious raclette and fondue varieties. Raclette is usually melted and served with potatoes, cornichons, onions, and a variety of meats, while fondue is a communal dish of melted cheese and white wine, served with bread.

Swiss cheese is full-flavored and often hard or semi-soft. It’s commonly paired with beer, especially light lagers, wheat beers, and pilsners. However, it’s not uncommon to find Swiss cheeses matched with wines like white chardonnay or sauvignon blanc.

French, Italian, and Swiss cheeses are all part of the world’s culinary heritage, and each one brings its own unique flavors and textures. When it comes to pairing cheese, it’s essential to consider the characteristics of each cheese to match it with the right drink. By doing so, you’ll get the best possible dining experience and enjoy a symphony of flavors and textures.

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